NEW YORK – Japan’s attempt to reinsert a U.N. call for world leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki into the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has fizzled, dealing a blow to Tokyo, which dispatched a top diplomat to New York to press the matter after Beijing got it removed from the draft.
The two cities were destroyed by atomic bombs during World War II.
With the NPT review conference wrapping up on Friday, the Japanese delegation made another try by informally proposing that the final document include an invitation to “the atomic bombed areas,” without naming either city, a diplomat said.
When that failed, it attempted to replace “the atomic bombed areas” with a phrase saying the NPT conference encourages “interactions with and directly sharing the experiences of the people and the communities affected by nuclear weapons” as a way to raise public awareness about nuclear disarmament, another diplomat said.
While this phrase may well be taken as a vague reference to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it represents a setback for Japan.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida made the proposal calling on political leaders and youths to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on the first day of the conference on April 27.
This year being the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of the two cities by the United States, Kishida invited them to “witness with their own eyes the reality of atomic bombings.”
The invite had been included in an early draft but was dropped after China, one of Japan’s war victims, insisted it was an attempt by Japan to portray itself as a victim of war.
Tokyo then sent Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama, an unusually high-ranking official for such a conference, to bolster the Japanese delegation’s attempts to gain support from the member states and conduct negotiations with the Chinese side. But the bid faltered, apparently in the face of opposition from Beijing.
Japan’s proposal drew support from at least 26 countries at the NPT conference. The treaty has around 190 member states.
With China in opposition, none of the remaining four nuclear powers, including Japan’s ally the United States, openly endorsed Japan’s idea. A diplomatic source said it shows how united the nuclear states are. By remaining allied in their opposition to rapid nuclear disarmament, the five countries likely avoided creating the impression they were marching to the beats of different drummers.
As the conference enters its final phase, challenges also remain to push negotiations forward on other fronts, making it difficult to predict whether the conference can eventually adopt a final document.
Some nonnuclear states could raise voices of revolt because a reference to a convention to outlaw nuclear weapons has been removed from the draft, which was proposed as a means of advancing nuclear disarmament.
The idea for instituting such a convention is backed by some nonnuclear states, while the five nuclear powers, which include Russia, Britain and France, have been calling for an incremental approach to nuclear disarmament.
Other sticking points include language about the humanitarian aspect of the consequences of nuclear weapons and a call on nuclear states to report the number and types of nuclear warheads in their stockpiles every year.
Negotiators also conducted last-minute consultations on setting up a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons that would cover Israel, an acknowledged nuclear state that has not joined the NPT.
Diplomats from relevant countries, including China and Japan, meanwhile, discussed how the conference addresses North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
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