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Editorial: U.N. arms reduction talks should aim for world without nuclear weapons

Two major trends — nuclear disarmament and nuclear arms expansion — are clashing with each other. It remains to be seen whether the ideal of a “world without nuclear weapons,” which U.S. President Barack Obama advocates, will be maintained after he steps down in January 2017.


As a positive move toward nuclear disarmament, the U.N. General Assembly voted to adopt a resolution at a session on Dec. 23, calling for the beginning of specific consultations in March next year toward the establishment of a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC).


The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which came into force in 1970, allows the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia to possess nuclear arms. These five nuclear powers are reluctant to carry out nuclear arms reductions provided for by the treaty. As such, the NWC is aimed at outlawing nuclear weapons and ridding the world of such arms.


A total of 113 countries supported the draft resolution, led by non-nuclear powers, while 35 countries including the United States, Britain, France and Russia voted against the pact. Thirteen countries including China abstained. The fact that Japan, the only atomic-bombed country, voted against the resolution drew particular attention.


On Dec. 22, the day before the resolution was adopted, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the country will upgrade its nuclear force to counter the United States’ missile defense program. U.S. President-elect Donald Trump also said the United States will “greatly strengthen and expand” its nuclear capability “until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”


The declarations by the United States and Russia, which possess 90 percent of nuclear weapons in the world, that both will expand their nuclear capabilities, appear as if they were challenging the U.N. resolution.


The NWC was discussed at a U.N. conference on disarmament issues held in Nagasaki in mid-December and attended by representatives from about 20 countries including the United States and Russia.


With regard to the NWC, a high-ranking official of the U.S. State Department said the United States is responsible for ensuring the security of its allies as well as the entire international community through its nuclear umbrella, and voiced stiff opposition to outlawing nuclear arms.


Tokyo sided with Washington. A senior Foreign Ministry official said Japan cannot support any effort toward nuclear disarmament that does not involve nuclear powers, noting that nuclear powers’ knowledge is necessary to dismantle nuclear weapons.


Representatives of Iran and other countries underscored the need to establish a convention to ban nuclear arms on the grounds that allowing only nuclear powers to take the initiative in global security would run counter to the spirit of the United Nations.


It is understandable to a certain extent that Japan shows consideration to the United States that provides a nuclear umbrella to Japan and other allies. However, Japan should keep in mind that nuclear arms reductions would be more difficult under a Trump administration unless Japan makes strong assertions on nuclear disarmament as a mediator between nuclear powers and non-nuclear powers.


Trump appears to be considering using the U.S. nuclear capability to overwhelm North Korea and other countries developing nuclear arms. However, the president-elect should remember that the U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms race during the Cold War never brought security to the world but rather contributed to nuclear proliferation.

Both Trump and Putin should keep in mind that continuing and promoting the pursuant of a “world without nuclear weapons” is the only way to free the world from the threat of nuclear weapons.


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