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Trump administration opposes Japan’s participation in U.N. talks on banning nukes

Kyodo

The U.S. administration of President Donald Trump has taken a hard line on Japan’s possible participation in U.N. talks later this month on a treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons, sources close to bilateral ties said Wednesday.

In conveying its opposition, Washington has used an expression indicating its strong aversion, the sources said. Japan has not made clear whether it will join the talks starting March 27 at the U.N. headquarters in New York.

While advocating a world free of nuclear weapons as the only country ever attacked with atomic bombs, Japan also relies on U.S. nuclear deterrence for protection.

Japan is expected to make a final decision soon following Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida’s talks with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday in Tokyo, the sources said.

At their first meeting last month, Kishida and Tillerson discussed the nuclear weapons ban treaty, prompting working-level officials from both sides to exchange views on the matter, they said. It was during the process that Washington expressed its opposition to Japan participating in the U.N. talks, they said.

Some close to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe believe Japan should not join the talks, given the importance Tokyo attaches to its alliance with the United States, the sources said. As a lawmaker elected from Hiroshima, Kishida has pushed for participation in the talks.

There is concern within the Japanese government that participation in the talks will hurt the alliance with the United States in the medium to long term, especially as Abe and Trump reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to use nuclear weapons to deter attacks against its allies at their summit last month, a senior Japanese official said.

The Trump administration’s stance on the treaty is “more severe” than the preceding administration under Barack Obama, the official said.

A U.S. government source, meanwhile, said the United States has been consistent in its stance against allies taking part in the negotiations on the treaty for abolishing nuclear weapons.

A landmark resolution endorsed by the U.N. General Assembly on Dec. 23 paved the way for the start of talks on the treaty.

Of the five recognized nuclear weapons states, the United States, Britain, France and Russia are opposed to the treaty and will not join the talks, while it is uncertain whether China will take part.

Anti-nuclear nongovernmental organizations and Japanese groups of surviving victims of the 1945 atomic bombings have urged the Japanese government to join the talks in a bid to realize the abolition of nuclear weapons.