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Pressure Mounts on Japan to Join the Nuclear Ban Treaty

By Katsuhiro Asagiri

Photo (left to right): Michiko Kodama, Assistant Secretary General of Nihon Hidankyo (Japan Confederation of A- & H- Bomb Sufferers' Organizations); Akira Kawasaki, Executive Committee Member, Peace Boat and an international steering committee member of ICAN; Terumi Tanaka, co-chairperson of Nihon Hidankyo (Japan Confederation of A- & H- Bomb Sufferers' Organizations); Haruko Moritaki, co-director of Hiroshima Alliance of Nuclear Weapons Abolition (HANWA). Credit: Katsuhiro Asagiri | IDN-INPS

TOKYO (IDN) – Japan is coming under pressure from within to sign and ratify the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty, which acknowledges the "unacceptable suffering" of the hibakusha – survivors of hitherto the first ever atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

122 member nations of the United Nations adopted what is formally known as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in July 2017. [P 02JAPANESE TEXT VERSION  PDF | NORWEGIAN

Aging survivors – 81.41 on an average as of March 2017 – have deplored the Japanese government's decision to stay out of the TPNW for the reason that joining the Treaty could "result in the distance between nuclear weapons and non-nuclear weapons states being further widened."

The remark made by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the occasion of the 72nd anniversary of atomic bombings at a news conference in Hiroshima angered 78-year-old Hiroshima hibakusha Hiroshi Harada, former head of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

"If the Japanese government isn't going to do anything, I don't want (Abe) to keep describing Japan in his speeches as 'the only country to have sustained atomic bombings in wartime,'" Harada was reported saying. "If you're going to tout that fact, you need to follow it up with the appropriate action."

Eight months later, the Japan NGO Network for Nuclear Weapons Abolition has handed over a solicitation document as well as a written inquiry to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), requesting the Japanese government to sign and ratify the Nuclear Ban Treaty.

On behalf of the Japan NGO Network, Terumi Tanaka, co-chair of Nihon Hidankyo, and Haruko Moritaki, co-directot of Hiroshima Alliance of Nuclear Weapons Abolition (HANWA), delivered the petition to MOFA's Parliamentary Vice Minister Mitsunari Okamoto on April 13.

This was in the run-up to the Second Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) – Second PrepCom of the 2020 NPT Review Conference from April 23 to May 4 in Geneva.

The solicitation document also asked for information about Japan's nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation policy and its stance on the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review.

Responding, Okamoto paid "respect to the efforts undertaken by people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to convey to the world the consequences of nuclear weapons." He added that while the Nuclear Ban Treaty shares the goal of abolishing nuclear weapons, its approach is different from that of the Japanese government.

Okamoto further stated that the Japanese government would like to contribute to heighten the international momentum toward the advancement of nuclear disarmament by "building bridges to effective nuclear disarmament" as suggested by the Group of Eminent Persons on the Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament in its recommendations submitted on March 29 to Foreign Minister Taro Kono.

Eminent representatives of the Japan NGO Network did not hide their disappointment at what they were told at the MOFA. At a press conference, Akira Kawasaki, an international steering committee member of Nobel Peace Laureate ICAN criticized the Ministry for sticking to the existing policy of not joining the Nuclear Ban Treaty.

"We had the impression that they have not yet decided on statements they would make during the PrepCom. Therefore, I have no idea about the Japanese government's policy toward nuclear disarmament," Kawasaki said.

HANWA's co-director Moritaki said she was "disappointed," adding that the Japanese government "should explain concrete measures if it claims to play the role of bridging nuclear states and non-nuclear states while focusing on an approach other than that of the Nuclear Ban Treaty."

It was against the backdrop of grave differences between the nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states on the one hand and among the non-nuclear-weapon states on the other in regard to the best way to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons that the then Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida announced the establishment of a Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament in his statement at the First PrepCom of the 2020 NPT Review Conference in May 2017 in Vienna.

The Group comprising 16 experts – 6 Japanese including the chairperson, and 10 foreign – has meanwhile tabled a set of 25 wide-ranging recommendations. Foreign experts are from both the nuclear weapon and non-nuclear weapon states comprising the States promoting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

The Group urges all member states of the United Nations to undertake "with a sense of urgency . . . the bridge-building measures . . . necessary to re-energize nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation during this cycle of the NPT review process, enhance the process itself and lay the ground for converging different approaches."

The Group says that the norm of non-use of nuclear weapons, which is backed by the 73-year practice of non-use, must be maintained by all means as one of the premises for upholding the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime.

Besides, the NPT must remain central to advancing the common goal of a world without nuclear weapons. "To preserve the NPT," the Group declares, "all states parties should fulfil their joint commitment to the ultimate total elimination of nuclear weapons, and to the implementation of the Decisions on Principles and Objectives and Strengthening the Review Process of 1995 and the Final Documents of 2000 and 2010."

The Group adds: "Based on the resolution adopted in 1995 and Action Plan agreed in 2010, the concerned regional actors and co-sponsors/conveners – the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States – in close communication with interested states parties to the NPT and the United Nations, should work to convene as soon as possible a conference on the Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and other Weapons of Mass Destruction to be attended by all states of the region of the Middle East."

The Group is of the view that the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) plays a critical role in reinforcing the norm of non-testing, preventing nuclear proliferation, and contributing to nuclear disarmament.

The Group urges the remaining Annex II States to sign and/or ratify the treaty without further delay and calls upon all states to refrain from nuclear testing. "All states should make extra efforts to maintain the effectiveness of the treaty’s verification mechanisms and the Provisional Technical Secretariat and ensure adequate funding."

Together with Kazakhstan, Japan has been a driving force behind efforts toward an early entry into force of the CTBT, which has been in limbo for nearly 22 years.

"The Russia-U.S. nuclear arms control framework constitutes a fundamental basis for the global nuclear arms and threat reduction effort," says the Group, and urges Russia and the United States to spare no effort to re-engage and to rehabilitate the framework to secure further reductions in nuclear forces. "The most urgent task is the extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) for five years," the Group stresses.

The Eminent Persons' Group describes full compliance by all parties with all elements of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as essential to the integrity of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. "All stakeholders should continue to support full implementation of the JCPOA, which is underpinned by United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231," it adds.

Catastrophic consequences from the North Korean nuclear and missile crisis must be prevented, declares the Group. "All stakeholders are urged to make every effort to resolve the problems through peaceful means, and to achieve the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

Further, the Group underlines the significance of the "development of effective monitoring, verification and compliance mechanisms", which it considers necessary for the achievement of nuclear disarmament. "The process of developing such means should in itself help build confidence among nuclear-armed states and between nuclear-armed states and non-nuclear-weapon states," states the Group. [IDN-InDepthNews – 16 April 2018]

Related IDN article: ICAN Chief Shows Japan the Way From a Blind Alley

Photo (left to right): Michiko Kodama, Assistant Secretary General of Nihon Hidankyo (Japan Confederation of A- & H- Bomb Sufferers' Organizations); Akira Kawasaki, Executive Committee Member, Peace Boat and an international steering committee member of ICAN; Terumi Tanaka, co-chairperson of Nihon Hidankyo (Japan Confederation of A- & H- Bomb Sufferers' Organizations); Haruko Moritaki, co-director of Hiroshima Alliance of Nuclear Weapons Abolition (HANWA). Credit: Katsuhiro Asagiri | IDN-INPS

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