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Japan's Gov't clearly not ready to sign anti-nuke declarations

August 11, 2013


Japan's reluctance to condemn nukes shows in refusal to sign anti-nuclear declarations



HIROSHIMA -- By refusing to sign joint declarations against nuclear weapons usage at United Nations meetings since last year, the Japanese government has shown that its reliance on the United States' nuclear umbrella keeps it from taking stronger action against the weapons.

Since 1994, every year at U.N. General Assembly meetings the Japanese government has proposed a resolution for a worldwide end to nuclear weapons. However, it has been unenthusiastic about efforts in recent years, primarily by non-nuke-holding countries, to make concrete progress in eliminating nukes.

According to Yokohama-based NPO Peace Depot, of 21 resolutions at the 2012 U.N. General Assembly that involved nuclear weapons, Japan abstained from voting on four, including one that called for the start of talks to create a nuclear weapons convention. The Japanese government argued that "to accomplish sure progress on nuclear arms reduction, realistic measures are needed," as it pointed out that nuclear-armed countries were not agreeing to the convention resolution.

Joint declarations calling for work to illegalize nuclear weapons were announced at both the Preparatory Committee for the Review Conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in May last year and at an arms reduction committee at the General Assembly in October. Sixteen countries signed the first declaration and 34 the second, but Japan refused to sign either, as the declaration's call for an immediate end to nuclear weapons is at odds with Japan's defense strategy of using the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

Later, at the second NPT review preparatory committee in April this year in Geneva, Switzerland, a new joint declaration against nuclear weapons was released. In deference to countries relying on nuclear deterrence, this one limited its scope to denouncing the morality of the weapons' use. It received the signature of 80 nations, but Japan again refused to sign.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained that, while it "agrees with the general argument" of the declaration, it had disagreements over some of the particular language. At an April press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga revealed that Japan had wanted the phrase "under any circumstances" removed from the declaration's sentence, "It is in the interests of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances."

Associate professor at the Hiroshima Peace Institute of Hiroshima City University and Korean national Kim Mikyoung, 49, views the Japanese response as "overreacting to the threat of North Korea."

"Hiroshima and Nagasaki view peacefulness and an anti-nuke stance as important messages, but I get the impression that is not getting through to the Japanese government," she says.

Other foreigners familiar with Hiroshima were also asked for their opinion. Visiting professor at Hiroshima University, American Suri Jeremy Avril, 40, defended the Japanese government, saying he could understand its reluctance to sign a declaration that conflicted with its reliance on the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

Meanwhile, Arthur Binard, 46, an American-born poet who has written many works about the atomic bomb victims, suggested that people around the world trying to get rid of nuclear weapons may no longer bother to deal with Japan after its refusals to sign the declarations
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