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Clear divergence of views on Nuclear Weapons Convention at UN conference

For the first time in 18 years, Nagasaki hosted the United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues, which ended on Dec. 13. Government representatives and experts gathered from countries around the world to discuss nuclear disarmament at the two-day conference. One of the four main focuses was the Nuclear Weapons Convention, for which negotiations will start as early as next spring. The conference revealed a clear divergence in views on the convention. Nuclear dependent countries held to their negative stance on the convention, saying, “Nuclear weapons should be eliminated gradually.” Meanwhile, a number of non-nuclear-weapon states (non-NWSs) voiced their criticism of that approach.


At a debate on Dec. 13 focusing on the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative said, “Non-NWSs don’t even try to listen to our concerns.” The NWS perspective that security is maintained through nuclear weapons was also voiced on Dec. 12 when the U.S. Department of State representative advocated nuclear deterrence: “It is because we have nuclear weapons that we have not had a major war for a long time.”


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative from Malaysia, which is in favor of the convention, was opposed to the “gradual approach” promoted by NWSs. “That method will take too long,” the Malaysian official said. The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative criticized NWSs as “not wanting to jeopardize their privileged position.”


Japan is the only country in the world to have endured wartime atomic bombings, and many sought to have it serve as a “bridge.” At the press conference after the closing ceremony, though, Kazutoshi Aikawa, director-general of the Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and Science Department at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, expressed a view that followed suit with NWSs: “We should move forward step by step taking into account the security perspective of NWSs.”


This year’s conference was co-organized by the United Nations and Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. About 60 bureau chief-level representatives participated representing about 20 countries around the world, including NWSs.

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