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Negotiations on nuclear weapons ban treaty to start

NEW YORK, Kyodo — The First Committee (on disarmament issues) of the UN General Assembly passed with a majority vote a resolution on starting negotiations on a “treaty to ban nuclear weapons” in 2017. Work will now begin on outlawing nuclear arms and vigorous efforts will be made for concrete measures to eliminate nuclear weapons. Japan voted against the resolution and this has caused an outcry among the hibakusha.


Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said, “Japan will assert its position firmly as the only atomic-bombed nation in the world,” indicating that Japan will participate in the talks.


It is reckoned that Austria, Mexico, and the other nonnuclear powers which initiated the resolution will now apply increased pressure on the five major nuclear powers – the U.S., Russia, the UK, France, and China. While it is true that a nuclear weapons ban treaty without the participation of the nuclear powers would not be effective, there is an opinion that the spread of the perception that nuclear arms are unlawful in the international community would put greater pressure on the nuclear powers to slash their nuclear arsenals.


The envisioned treaty to ban nuclear weapons is expected to include such provisions as a ban on the use of nuclear arms. This may impact the international security regime centered on nuclear deterrence, so the nuclear powers are expected to react negatively.


Japan’s ambassador for disarmament Toshio Sano explained that Japan voted against the resolution because: “We argued that (the talks) should take place under a consensus of the international community and this was not reflected in the resolution.”


The resolution was supported by 123 nations, mostly developing countries, while 38 countries, including Japan, the U.S., the UK, France, and Russia, voted against it. China and 15 other nations abstained.


The resolution voices serious concern about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons. It calls for negotiations for the treaty to ban nuclear arms to take place in New York from March 27-31 and from June 15-July 7 under UN General Assembly rules, such as provisions on decision by a majority vote.


The resolution will be sent to a plenary session of the UN General Assembly in December for official adoption.


Japan and nations protected by the U.S. “nuclear umbrella” and the NATO members are opposed to a radical nuclear weapons ban treaty, asserting that gradual reduction of nuclear weapons while prioritizing security is a more realistic approach. Japan sponsored another resolution on Oct. 27 calling for the future abolition of nuclear weapons, which was passed by a majority vote of 167 nations, including the U.S.

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