New U.N. disarmament chief Nakamitsu backs proposal for global nuclear weapons ban


Izumi Nakamitsu, the new U.N. undersecretary-general and high representative for disarmament affairs, has said that she will throw her full support behind negotiations to ban nuclear weapons.

In an interview Thursday, Nakamitsu, 53, said she will pay official visits to Hiroshima and Nagasaki this summer, if invited, with the aim of making an international appeal for disarmament from the atom-bombed cities.

Nakamitsu, who assumed the new posts Monday, gave her blessing to the view held by nonnuclear countries in favor of an international treaty to outlaw atomic weapons that a disarmament accord would complement the regime of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

She also said it is “critically important” to make a success of an NPT review conference to be held in 2020. Unlike the U.N.-backed talks on a nuclear weapons ban treaty, which began in March, the NPT review process involves major nuclear powers.

Nakamitsu said she hopes Japan, the only country to have suffered nuclear attacks, will serve as a bridge between nuclear and nonnuclear nations.

She added that she is also keen to step in when necessary on the divisive issue.

“It is my very important role to play to provide political facilitation,” she said.

Turning to North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs, Nakamitsu called them “unacceptable to the international community.”

She also pointed to the need to “think about what steps we should take toward the path of dialogue,” adding that the U.N. is willing to serve as an intermediary if asked by the parties concerned.

In addition to her visits to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, she said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is considering whether or not he is able to make a similar trip.

Nakamitsu called the U.S. atomic bombings of the two cities in August 1945 was “the biggest incident in human history,” noting how she had heard her father talk about seeing the mushroom cloud over Nagasaki from neighboring Kumamoto Prefecture.

A native of Tokyo, Nakamitsu joined the United Nations in 1989 and has been assistant secretary-general and assistant administrator at the U.N. Development Program’s Crisis Response Unit since November 2014.

Previously, she served as director of the Asia and Middle East division, as well as director of the division of policy, evaluation and training with the United Nations’ peacekeeping department.

Her extensive career at the international body has included posts in and out of New York, including serving under former Secretary-General Kofi Annan as part of his reform team and at the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in the former Yugoslavia, Turkey and northern Iraq.

Nakamitsu was also a professor of international relations at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo between 2005 and 2008.