GENEVA – Japan has declined to endorse a joint statement against the use of nuclear weapons at a preparatory committee for the next Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review meeting.
The statement on the humanitarian impact of the weapons, announced Wednesday by South Africa, urges that atomic weapons never be used under any circumstances. Members of the South African delegation said Japan sought to cut the phrase “under any circumstances.”
The government’s top spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga explained at a news conference Thursday that Japan did not agree with the statement, given “the security environment in which the country is placed.”
Some quarters of the Japanese government are believed to have objected to the statement because of concerns that endorsing it could affect the U.S. nuclear umbrella that protects Japan and undermine deterrence against North Korea, which has recently threatened to use nuclear weapons.
Suga said at the same time that Japan, as the only nation ever to suffer a nuclear attack, “knows the reality of nuclear-weapons use more than any country.”
“Japan will continue to seek the possibility of participating in (another) joint statement on such a theme,” Suga said.
Mari Amano, ambassador of the Japanese delegation to the Conference on Disarmament, said, “It differed from the policy of the Japanese government to undertake procedures for nuclear abolition in phases.”
“While we did not endorse the statement this time, we endorse (the idea of) the overall contents,” Amano said. “If a similar statement is unveiled, we could endorse it.”
More than 70 countries endorsed the statement issued at the Second Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of NPT parties in Geneva.
The joint statement says nuclear weapons have an immense destructive capability and brought vast damage via the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as through nuclear tests. The only way to ensure they will never be used again is through elimination, it says.
Just before the opening of the preparatory meeting, Switzerland asked for Japan’s endorsement, but the Foreign Ministry did not respond.
“I don’t understand why (Japan) doesn’t support it,” Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui said after the meeting. Matsui said the statement “embodies the wish (for abolition) held by Hiroshima.”
Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue issued a statement saying Japan’s failure to support the statement “trampled on the efforts made so far by hibakusha and disappointed many other countries seeking nuclear abolition.”