Japan’s vote against nuke ban talks mocks its anti-nuke credo

The first round of negotiations on a nuclear ban treaty is expected to be held in March next year. The United States and other nuclear powers have indicated they will boycott the talks. But Kishida has said Japan will be at the negotiating table.

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Toshio Sano, Japanese ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, meet reporters at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Oct. 27 after Japan voted against a resolution calling for negotiations on a treaty that would outlaw nuclear weapons.

The first round of negotiations on a nuclear ban treaty is expected to be held in March next year. The United States and other nuclear powers have indicated they will boycott the talks. But Kishida has said Japan will be at the negotiating table.

Japan’s vote against a United Nations resolution calling for talks on a treaty to ban nuclear arms has made a mockery of its pledge to lead the movement toward a world without nuclear weapons, as the only country that has suffered nuclear attacks.

The U.N. General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security adopted a resolution to start formal negotiations next year on a treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons. In the vote, 123 nations supported the resolution, with 38 opposed.

The United Nations’ decision to embark on full-fledged discussions on a legal framework to ban nuclear arms represents a historic move.

But Japan, along with nuclear powers the United States, Russia, Britain and France, voted against the measure.

Japan has been cautious about negotiating such a treaty. But its vote against the resolution is tantamount to declaring that it is now taking a position closer to those of the nuclear powers. It is hard to fathom the reason for Japan taking this extremely regrettable action.

No wonder the Japanese government’s action has triggered a barrage of criticism by hibakusha, or the survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as various non-governmental organizations devoted to the cause of world peace both at home and abroad.

It is obvious that the use of nuclear weapons is inhumanity at its worst. But there is no international law that bans nuclear arms.

Austria and other non-nuclear states that have sponsored the resolution have made a convincing case for negotiating a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons as a first step toward their elimination.

The United States has expressed especially strong opposition to the move. The principal reason for Washington’s vehement objection is that the proposed treaty would disturb the delicate balance of international security based on nuclear deterrence.

The United States has also called on its allies protected by its “nuclear umbrella,” including Japan and NATO members, to vote against the resolution, claiming that their security, too, would be affected by the envisioned treaty.

As a result, South Korea, Australia and Germany, as well as Japan, were also among the countries that opposed the measure.

The U.N. committee adopted a separate resolution promoted by Japan calling for gradual cuts in the global stockpile of nuclear weapons. The United States supported this resolution.

Explaining Tokyo’s vote, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said starting negotiations on a nuclear ban treaty is inconsistent with Japan’s basic approach to nuclear disarmament.

Many Japanese government policymakers believe the protection of the deterrent effect of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is essential for Japan’s own national security at a time when the security environment in East Asia is deteriorating due partly to North Korea’s continued development of nuclear arms and missiles.

But the proponents of a ban treaty are not calling for an immediate end to dependence on the extended U.S. nuclear deterrence. These non-nuclear states are only advocating the beginning of talks on such a treaty.

How to pursue both nuclear arms reductions and national security is a challenge the world should tackle through international negotiations.

The nuclear powers are acting too inflexibly by opposing even the establishment of a conference for such negotiations.

Japan and other U.S. allies that have followed Washington’s lead will face some serious questions about their independence.

The resolution is now set to be adopted in a U.N. General Assembly session by the end of this year. The first round of negotiations on a nuclear ban treaty is expected to be held in March next year.

The United States and other nuclear powers have indicated they will boycott the talks. But Kishida has said Japan will be at the negotiating table.

The rift between nuclear and non-nuclear states is deeper than ever before.

Japan should now try to play an active role in the efforts to narrow the gap between the positions of both camps by persuading the nuclear powers to join the negotiations.

That’s the way for Japan to maintain the credibility of its commitment to the elimination of nuclear arms as the nation that was once devastated by atomic bombs.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201610290021.html

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