NEW YORK - Japan does not plan to support a document circulated among U.N. members that calls for a ban on nuclear weapons, after the United States, its security ally and provider of nuclear deterrence, urged it not to, government and diplomatic sources said Thursday.
The paper has been distributed by Austria, which hosted an international meeting on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in December. Hoping to add impetus to the debate on banning nuclear weapons, Austria plans to submit it to a U.N. conference held from next month to review the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
As the only country to have suffered atomic bombing, Japan has pushed for the adoption at the U.N. General Assembly every year of a resolution calling on states to take action toward the elimination of nuclear weapons.
But because the Austrian paper calls for a treaty banning and eliminating nuclear weapons, the Japanese government has found it inappropriate to support the document, given the need for consistency with the country’s reliance on the U.S. nuclear umbrella, the sources said.
“The time is not yet ripe for negotiating” such a pact, a government official said.
A U.S. State Department official said Washington will not back the paper, citing the need to pursue “a more pragmatic approach that represents a consensus view” of countries subscribing to the NPT.
The Japanese stance on the document, however, is likely to disappoint atomic-bomb survivors in the country who have planned to call for a nuclear weapons ban treaty when the NPT review conference is held in New York from April 27 to May 22.
In mid-January, Austria asked U.N. members to express their support for its document, which it titled the “Austrian Pledge.”
In the paper, Austria calls on all NPT members to “identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons,” citing the “unacceptable humanitarian consequences and associated risks” of nuclear weapons.
But the Japanese Foreign Ministry has determined that the content of the document “crosses a red line,” according to the sources. It is instead considering conveying to Austria Tokyo’s intention of cooperating with it in making the upcoming NPT review conference successful and promoting nuclear disarmament.
The sources said a senior U.S. official who visited Japan in February had urged Japanese officials not to support the paper.
The United States has similarly urged some members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, such as Norway, not to support the Austrian document. Norway is actively engaged in discussions about the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons.
The paper has so far won consent from about 50 countries. Austria’s Foreign Ministry has said the countries do not include those possessing nuclear weapons or those under the protection of countries with nuclear weapons.