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As NPT “intermediary,” Japan is at crucial stage

By Sato Kei and Kaite Yusuke


Nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation through the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) have been an important goal of the Japanese government and the lifework of Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, who is considering addressing by video the next NPT Review Conference. If, however, the current global situation prevents the conference from producing a meaningful result, widening the schism between nuclear and non-nuclear powers, Japan’s standing as a self-appointed “intermediary” between these nations would be undermined.


“I hear that many have expressed concern that the Review Conference will fail once again and that no consensus outcome document will be adopted. This is not a time, however, for us to sit idly by in the face of this harsh reality.”


Kishida spoke with passion about adopting a final document at an online conference held on Dec. 9 to discuss nuclear disarmament.


Kishida was born in Hiroshima, where an atomic bomb was dropped, and he is a strong advocate of nuclear disarmament. Much of Kishida’s speech at the online meeting was prepared by the premier himself, and government officials say that his remarks were testimony to his resolve. In his remarks, Kishida stressed Japan’s role to the meeting’s participants, including [Gustavo] Zlauvinen from Argentine who will chair the Review Conference, by saying that Japan, as the only country to have ever suffered atomic bombings during war, should lead countries with divergent views to overcome their differences and cooperate with one other by involving nuclear-weapon States. 


The last Review Conference ended without adopting a final document, leaving the world without a clear path to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. This led to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which no nuclear powers signed. The Japanese government maintained a cautious stance toward the treaty, with Kishida repeatedly stating: “The realistic way [to achieve nuclear disarmament] is to act through the NPT whose participants include nations that possess nuclear weapons.” To reinforce the NPT framework, Kishida plans to seek ways for nuclear and non-nuclear powers to “cooperate” under Japan’s leadership at the Review Conference.


The Japanese government strongly hopes to avoid the conference ending in a schism for the second time lest the NPT loses its credibility. “Whatever the content, we must issue a final document,” said a Ministry of Foreign Affairs source who feels a sense of urgency. 


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