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Japan: What message on nuclear weapons?

March 22, 2016


Editorial: Japan must send powerful message on nuclear disarmament from Hiroshima



As tensions between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states intensify, the responsibility of Japan to serve as a bridge between the two parties has grown even greater.

Ahead of the Ise-Shima G7 Summit set to take place in May, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. Secretary of State John Jerry will take part in a foreign ministerial meeting in Hiroshima on April 10 and 11 with their G7 counterparts.

Japan should lead the debate on the elimination of nuclear weapons and send a strong message from Hiroshima, which was devastated by an atomic bomb dropped by the U.S. military in World War II. Seven years have passed since U.S. President Barack Obama's speech for "a world without nuclear weapons." And yet, approximately 16,000 nuclear weapons still exist worldwide. Nuclear disarmament has plateaued, while the proliferation of nuclear weapons remains a serious concern. The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) framework, which permits only five nuclear states -- the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France and China -- to possess nuclear arms in return for nuclear arms reduction, has become a mere facade.

Meanwhile, to break through the stagnation of the NPT framework, a push to highlight the inhumaneness of nuclear weapons in order to ban their development, testing, production and use, and establish a nuclear disarmament treaty that would obligate nuclear states to dispose of their nuclear arms, is gaining momentum.

The meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, in late February of an open-ended U.N. working group tasked to discuss legal measures necessary to achieve a nuclear-weapons-free world took place in response to such moves. The working group will meet in May and August as well, and will submit recommendations and a report to the U.N. General Assembly this fall.

However, the five nuclear-weapon states -- which remain wary of an outright ban on nuclear weapons -- opposed the resolution to establish the working group at the U.N. General Assembly in December 2015, and are not taking part in the group. Japan, which lies under the "nuclear umbrella" of the U.S., abstained from voting on the resolution, and decided only at the last minute to participate in the working group.

Japan is calling for a nuclear-weapons-free world as the only country to have experienced nuclear bombing, and yet it still upholds a national security policy that relies on American nuclear deterrence.

Because of this, Japan takes the position that an outright ban on nuclear weapons should not be forced without the cooperation of nuclear-weapon states, realistic and practical measures, and consideration for the global security landscape. Japan, stuck between the ideal of a world without nuclear weapons and serious national security challenges, has been criticized for its confusing actions and double standards. The only thing Japan can do now is to take and build upon realistic steps.

At the meeting of the working group last month, Japan, under the initiative of Australia, released a joint statement addressing the deliberation of a long-term treaty banning nuclear weapons. The statement put forth the possibility of considering a treaty completely banning nuclear weapons after reducing nuclear weapons to the smallest number possible, and with a variety of prerequisites, including the establishment of a verification system.

That's a proposal for which nuclear-weapon states can surely make compromises, is it not?

The statement was signed by four G7 members: Japan, Germany, Canada and Italy. We hope that the understanding and approval of the U.S., the U.K, and France can be obtained, and that Japan will be able to denounce the inhumaneness of nuclear weapons and discuss the prospect of an all-out ban on such weapons at the upcoming foreign ministerial conference in Hiroshima.


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