Japan finally signs on to international statement against use of nuclear weapons
October 23, 2013
Japan for the first time expressed its support for a joint statement seeking for the nonuse and abolition of nuclear weapons presented at a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly First Committee on October 21.
The Joint Statement on Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons was signed by 125 countries including Japan. Expressing concern over the inhumanity of nuclear weapons, the statement reads, "It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances."
With some amendments to wording, a similar statement was discussed three times before on such occasions as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in May 2012 and April 2013 and the UN General Assembly First Committee in October 2012.
Japan had refused to sign the past three statements because they were inconsistent with the nation's security policy which depends on the U.S. nuclear umbrella. This attitude provoked anger from people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Hibakusha groups.
The Japanese government decided to become a signatory this time as it judged that the latest version of the statement does not conflict with its defense strategy.
On the day after Japan endorsed the UN statement, the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo) and the Japan Council against A and H Bombs (Japan Gensuikyo) each issued statements.
Hidankyo in its statement pointed out that people's pressure from both home and abroad pushed the Japanese government to change its mind to support the document. As nuclear deterrence strategy goes against the aim of the UN statement, Hidankyo demanded that Japan abandon the nuclear umbrella provided by the U.S. and push nuclear powers to abandon their atomic arsenals.
The Gensuikyo statement points out that as the only A-bombed country having the pacifist Constitution and the three non-nuclear principles, Japan is obliged to support the statement. The group calls on the national government to work for the establishment of a global nuclear weapons elimination treaty and depart from its supposed reliance on the U.S. nuclear umbrella.
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Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo on October 22 issued a comment on Japan's participation in the UN statement. The excerpt of his statement is as follows:
It is a matter of course, though late, for the government of the country which underwent the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to sign the UN statement against the use of nuclear weapons, and overcome its past policy of refusing to endorse similar statements.
The Japanese government, however, still continues to depend on the nuclear deterrent under the U.S. nuclear umbrella. The latest statement includes additional wording which specifies "all approaches and efforts toward nuclear disarmament". Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide said that the government decided to endorse the statement because the revised document takes into consideration Japan's conventional policy, including extended deterrence, and thus the government concluded that the statement is consistent with Japan's position aiming for gradual nuclear disarmament.
The wording, "It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances," remains at the core of the statement. This sentence points to an inconsistency with the nuclear deterrent argument. While supporting the statement, the government hangs on to the nuclear deterrent policy leaving room for the use of nuclear weapons. This is clearly incompatible.
Now that the government has signed onto the statement, it should take on an active role in achieving a "world without nuclear weapons". As the government of the only A-bombed nation, it should support the call for the start of international negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention as called for by many people in the international community and should take a leading role in achieving this. To that end, it is essential to break away from its dependence on the nuclear deterrent policy under the U.S. nuclear umbrella.