VIENNA – Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz has expressed hope that Japan will join negotiations later this month on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons.
“Japan, as the world’s sole atomic-bombed nation, has a moral voice and can give an invaluable opinion on the issue of nuclear disarmament,” Kurz said in a written interview ahead of the first round of negotiations that begin March 27 in New York.
“We would very much welcome the chance to hear Japan’s views during the negotiations,” said Kurz, whose country is among those leading the negotiations and urging Japan and NATO members to take part.
Japan, which relies on U.S. nuclear deterrence for protection, has not said whether it will join the talks.
Kurz, Austria’s foreign minister since December 2013, stressed the need for a treaty given the stalemate in multilateral nuclear disarmament efforts for the past 20 years.
“Nuclear abolition is the only reliable way to protect … humanity against catastrophic consequences and the risks of accidental nuclear explosions,” said Kurz, who is also chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The U.N.-led negotiations will be tough, as four of the five countries with the biggest nuclear arsenals — the United States, Russia, Britain and France — are opposed to a treaty, while China is thinking of joining the talks.
Kurz hopes the new U.S. government will “exercise its leadership in nuclear disarmament and build impetus,” as President Donald Trump, while calling for an expanded U.S. nuclear capability, has also spoken of the ideal of a nuclear-free world.
The first step, Kurz said, is to conclude a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons, and then create an inspection and verification scheme that can be trusted by all nations.
By doing so, he said, all states would feel more secure in an environment without nuclear weapons, thereby encouraging nuclear armed states to ultimately join the ban.
“It is clear that there is a need to gradually take additional steps in verification to come closer to a nuclear-free world,” Kurz said, adding it is “good to reflect on whether nuclear deterrence is out of step with the times.”
The envisioned pact would likely be modeled after the Chemical Weapons Convention and a treaty banning antipersonnel mines, although details still have to be worked out, he said.
“If there are no nuclear weapon states, we are convinced that people in countries which believe in finding security under nuclear deterrence would look at things objectively and feel more secure (in this new security landscape),” Kurz said.
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