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Japan should promote nuclear disarmament

April 8, 2013
Japan should take leadership role on nuclear disarmament



The Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), which is comprised of 10 non-nuclear powers, including Japan, Australia and Germany, is set to hold a foreign ministerial conference in The Hague on April 9.

As the only country that has been bombed by atomic weapons, Japan has pursued the elimination of nuclear arms while relying on the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Because of such a dilemma, Japan has taken a pragmatic policy line of seeking to gradually reduce nuclear weapons. The NPDI is also characterized by its realistic approach.

Currently, there are approximately 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which came into force in 1970, recognizes only five countries -- the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China -- as the sole nuclear powers, and aims to prevent the proliferation of such arms to other countries. About 190 countries have ratified the pact. Although it is a biased treaty, the NPT obligates the nuclear powers to reduce their nuclear arms. In the NPT regime, however, there is a wide gap between the five nuclear powers and members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which are demanding that nuclear powers set a clear deadline for arms reductions.

As such, the NPDI was set up in September 2010 on the initiative of Japan and Australia as a coordinator between the nuclear powers and the NAM. It has held a foreign ministerial meeting twice a year, and Hiroshima is scheduled to host one in the spring of next year.

At the April 9 meeting in The Hague, the foreign ministers of the 10 members of the NPDI are expected to draw up six working documents in preparation for the NPT Review Conference in 2015. The documents include one calling on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty to come into force at an early date, one calling for the reduction of nonstrategic nuclear arms and another on how to reduce the role of nuclear weapons.

Such an approach has been criticized by some as being too lukewarm. However, the NPDI has been making strenuous demands that nuclear powers take effective measures to ensure the transparency of nuclear weapons despite the deadlock over nuclear arms reductions resulting from the conflict between nuclear powers and the NAM. The NPDI's approach should be appreciated.

However, questions remain about the Japanese government's nuclear disarmament diplomacy. Tokyo chose not to sign a statement calling for efforts to outlaw nuclear weapons, which 34 countries including Norway and Switzerland jointly submitted to the U.N. General Assembly's First Committee on arms reductions in October last year. As to the reason, the government explained that Japan cannot say that nuclear arms are illegal since it relies on the U.S. nuclear deterrence. However, is this really the reason?

It is true that the security environment in East Asia is becoming increasingly serious as North Korea has recently test-fired a long-range ballistic missile and carried out a nuclear test and China is apparently stepping up its military buildup. Still, Japan's refusal to support even a statement that does not set any deadline and only calls for efforts to outlaw nuclear arms highlights its extremely passive stance toward nuclear disarmament.

Japan should promote flexible but tough nuclear disarmament diplomacy in which it takes the lead in efforts to achieve the ideal of nuclear disarmament while taking a pragmatic policy line. (By Chiyako Sato, Editorial Writer)

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