Editorial / The Asahi Shimbun – 2016-02-08 00:50:31
The Nuclear Age in Six Movements
The history of the nuclear age, from the Manhattan Project to the present efforts to achieve a treaty banning all nuclear weapons. (AN Australia, PO Box 1379, Carlton VIC 3053)
Japan Should Lead UN Talks to Establish Nuclear Ban
Editorial / The Asahi Shimbun
(February 1, 2016) — The Japanese government has decided to join a new working group on nuclear disarmament that the United Nations will set up later this month.
Non-nuclear weapon states are deepening their recognition in recent years of the dangerous and inhumane nature of nuclear arms. A momentum is picking up for a ban on nuclear weapons under international law.
The working group will be established in the context of that new trend. It is only too natural for Japan, the only country that has suffered atomic bombings during war, to join the undertaking. A key question facing Japan is what role it will play at that venue.
We hope Tokyo will live up to the remarks made by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who said that Japan should “lead the international community in working toward a world without nuclear weapons.”
More than a quarter-century after the end of the Cold War, the five major nuclear weapon states–the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China–still possess large arsenals of nuclear arms.
The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) obligates those five nations to pursue nuclear disarmament in exchange for granting them, and no other country, the status of nuclear weapon states. But efforts to shrink their arsenals have stalled in recent years amid ongoing upgrades, including in the accuracy of attack capabilities.
With the spread of nuclear technology, in addition, there is no end to the list of nations, such as North Korea, which are challenging the NPT in pursuing the development of nuclear arms.
The rift between the non-nuclear weapon states, which are calling for disarmament and abolition of nuclear arms for fear of nightmarish scenarios, in which nuclear missiles are launched by mistake or are obtained by terrorists, and the nuclear weapon states, which do not want to part with their atomic power, is widening more than ever.
The NPT Review Conferences and the Conference on Disarmament, both of which are operated on a consensus basis, are not enough on their own to overcome the resistance of nuclear weapon states to move the discussion forward.
That was why the momentum has rapidly spread for initially signing a treaty or taking other legal measures to ban nuclear arms, which will be labeled as inhumane and unethical, and thereafter seeking their abolition on the basis of that global standard.
The new working group will be set up for that objective.
During the UN General Assembly last autumn, 12 countries, including the five major nuclear weapon states, opposed the resolution for setting up the working group, whereas 34 others, including Japan and NATO member countries, both under the US nuclear umbrella, abstained from voting.
The resolution, notwithstanding, was approved by an overwhelming majority of 138 nations, which account for some two-thirds of all UN member states.
During an organizational session held informally last week, Tokyo, which remained noncommittal on whether it would join the working group, argued in support of a consensus-based approach.
Efforts are certainly necessary for seeking broad-based approvals, including from nuclear weapon states. But being inflexible on reaching a consensus will never help break the current stalemate over nuclear disarmament.
Japan should make constructive contributions to a prospective ban on nuclear arms.
It could study concrete subjects, including, for example, the coverage and order of prospective bans that could draw nuclear weapon states into discussions, and measures for a safe departure from the nuclear umbrella.
More than a few citizens of nuclear weapon states, including the United States, are calling for nuclear arms to be abolished. In-depth views should be exchanged both at home and abroad.
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