NEW YORK – Outgoing U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan will ask Japan to refrain from having a debate over whether to possess nuclear weapons and instead stick to its long-standing policy of no nuclear arms.
“A state does not need to possess nuclear weapons to achieve greatness in this world,” Annan says in a message to be delivered to a ceremony Monday in Tokyo marking the 50th anniversary of Japan’s membership in the world body.
Nobuaki Tanaka, U.N. undersecretary general for disarmament affairs, will read the message on Annan’s behalf.
The ceremony will be attended by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.
It will be Annan’s last message to Japan as U.N. chief. He is leaving office at the end of the month after two five-year terms.
In the wake of North Korea’s nuclear test in October, discussions about possible possession of nuclear weapons have been growing in Japan.
Foreign Minister Taro Aso has repeatedly expressed support for debating the issue, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe not questioning Aso’s stance.
Some officials have indicated that such debates would aim to put more pressure on China to exercise its influence on North Korea to prevent Pyongyang from taking further provocative actions.
However, the discussions are raising concerns in neighboring Asian countries and the United States.
Annan is also apparently worried that such debates could jeopardize global nuclear nonproliferation efforts by encouraging similar moves in other nonnuclear countries.
In the message, Annan welcomes Japan’s revival from the ashes of World War II, saying, “Japan has witnessed a remarkable transformation into a democratic, dynamic and prosperous nation, while contributing to the advancement of humanity across the globe.”
Annan will also hail Japan’s U.N.-centered diplomacy, citing contributions in humanitarian relief, global nuclear disarmament, U.N. peacekeeping efforts and combating global warming as examples.
“Such support goes well beyond its generous and consistent funding,” Annan says. “Indeed, Japan is recognized worldwide as a leading champion of multilateralism, democracy, as well as of conflict prevention and human rights.”
Japan is the second-largest contributor to the U.N. after the U.S.
Annan’s message says he is confident that Japan’s contributions to the work of the United Nations have only just begun and he expects it to play a significant role in U.N. reform to ensure the organization’s efficiency and effectiveness needed to advance the goals of the U.N. Charter.
“I thank the government and people of Japan for the excellent partnership we have enjoyed during the 10 years I have served as secretary general, and wish you every success as you play an ever more important role in the organization in the years ahead,” he says.
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