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Japan should play leading role in nuclear disarmament


 October 23, 2013


Editorial: Japan can do more to lead global move toward nuclear disarmament




Japan joined 124 other countries in announcing a joint statement opposing the use of nuclear weapons at the U.N. General Assembly's First Committee. This is the first time that Japan has endorsed such a statement, marking an important step forward.

The next step that Japan should take is to play a leading role in efforts toward nuclear disarmament through various venues, such as the foreign ministerial conference of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) to be held in Hiroshima in April 2014 with the participation of 12 non-nuclear powers.

The statement drafted by New Zealand says, "It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances."

Similar statements were released in May and October last year and April this year, but Japan refused to support any of them. This is because Japan cannot keep consistency between such a statement and its security policy of relying on the U.S. nuclear umbrella, although it remains the only atomic-bombed country in the world.

As many as 80 countries backed the April statement largely because a phrase, "outlawing nuclear weapons," was deleted from its draft. Japan came under fire internationally and domestically for refusing to sign the statement. In the Peace Declaration on the Aug. 9, 2013 atomic bombing anniversary, Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue bitterly criticized the national government over its response and urged it to "consider once again that Japan is the only country to have suffered a nuclear bombing."

Tokyo chose to support the latest statement because its request that the document express support for all approaches and efforts toward nuclear arms reductions was accepted. The government explains that the statement is consistent with Japan's policy of promoting nuclear arms reductions on a step-by-step basis while depending on the nuclear deterrence provided by the United States.

However, the Japanese government's actions leading up to the decision to support the statement were lukewarm.

Moves by like-minded countries to ban the use of nuclear arms because of the inhuman nature of such weapons are gaining momentum on a global scale. The U.S. government of President Barack Obama is also seeking to reduce the roles of nuclear weapons.

Japan has made efforts toward nuclear disarmament by submitting to the United Nations every year a draft resolution calling for efforts to reduce the number of nuclear weapons on a step-by-step basis, but is wary of the moves by like-minded countries that could lead to the creation of a convention banning nuclear arms. Critics have pointed out that Japan is trying to dampen these moves because it heavily relies on the nuclear deterrence provided by the United States.

The security environment surrounding Japan is severe as a result of North Korea's nuclear program and China's military buildup. This time, Japan also joined 17 other countries including Australia and member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in backing a similar statement. This statement underscores the need for discussions on security guarantees. The move highlights the delicate positions of Japan and NATO members.

However, there are many things that Japan can do even though it relies on the U.S. nuclear umbrella. To fulfill Japan's responsibility as a supporter of these statements, the executive and legislative branches of the government should seriously discuss specifically what it can do to lead the global move toward nuclear disarmament, while listening to opinions from experts.

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