NEW YORK – Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida called on nuclear-weapon states Monday to improve the transparency of information regarding their atomic arsenals, apparently wary of China’s buildup of its nuclear forces.
At the start of U.N. conference in New York to review the operation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Kishida also reiterated his hope that political leaders from around the world will visit the Japanese cities devastated by the U.S. atomic bombings at the end of World War II to witness the reality of the attacks.
Kishida took part in the NPT review conference as the first Japanese foreign minister to do so in 10 years. The meeting has been held every five years since the treaty went into effect in 1970.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, about 16,350 nuclear warheads were estimated to exist as of January 2014, most possessed by the United States and Russia. China was believed to have up to 250 nuclear weapons.
The Foreign Ministry in Tokyo is particularly concerned about China, which it says is the only one among the five original nuclear-weapon states — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — that is expanding its nuclear forces, and that transparency is low regarding its nuclear activities.
“Nuclear weapons reduction negotiations are not possible if the number of nuclear warheads is not known. Furthermore, transparency builds confidence at the regional and international levels. We call on nuclear-weapon states to make concrete and regular reports with numerical information,” Kishida said.
He also said reducing nuclear weapons should not be limited to those possessed by the United States and Russia, and the nuclear arsenals of “all states possessing nuclear weapons will need to be reduced.”
Under the NPT, nuclear powers pledge to work toward disarmament in exchange for the promise that nonnuclear nations will not acquire nuclear weapons, while all countries have access to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
On the nuclear nonproliferation front, Kishida called North Korea’s continued development of nuclear weapons and missiles “a serious threat” to international security and it “represents a serious challenge to the NPT regime.”
North Korea declared its withdrawal from the NPT in 2003 and subsequently carried out three nuclear tests.
As a representative of the only country to have suffered atomic bombings in war, Kishida also highlighted the importance of having a “common recognition of the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons” and “the unity of the international community” to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.
The remarks came amid growing global attention in recent years to the humanitarian dimension of nuclear weapons, through such occasions as international meetings that looked into the catastrophic impact of weapons on human health and the environment.
Some nonnuclear weapons states have stepped up calls for a global treaty banning nuclear weapons, but nuclear powers, which prefer a step-by-step approach to disarmament, are against such a move.