HIROSHIMA – Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on Saturday defended Japan’s choice not to participate in U.N. talks toward a treaty banning nuclear weapons, saying that proceeding would risk deepening the rift between countries with nuclear stockpiles and those without them.
In an interview, the Hiroshima native said Japan’s stance reflects the divide that could be seen on the first day of the ban treaty negotiations at the United Nations in March.
“If we push ahead with this initiative, the divide between the nuclear and non-nuclear countries will get increasingly severe, and in the end it won’t make a real difference … it won’t lead to progress toward a world without nuclear weapons,” Kishida said.
The decision has been criticized as Japan’s bending to the will of its security ally the United States, which along with major nuclear powers Britain, China, France and Russia, plus non-nuclear members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is not participating in the talks.
Instead, he advocated using existing frameworks that include nuclear countries to see through initiatives to reduce their stockpiles. This could eventually lead to the number of weapons being reduced to zero, but that hinges on “a legally binding treaty being introduced at the right time.”
It’s been nearly a year since Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima.
Asked if it is realistic to expect Obama’s successor Donald Trump to visit either Hiroshima or Nagasaki while in office, Kishida said it is far too early to know.
“The posts in the State Department underneath (Secretary of State Rex) Tillerson are yet to be filled, so we don’t even know at this point who we would talk with,” he said.
“I still think it is very important to bring the leaders of the world to the places that were hit by atomic bombs and let them get close to the reality of the bombings, and I want to pass that way of thinking on (to the United States),” he said.
Reflecting on Obama’s visit, he said a sitting U.S. president “has the most power (of anyone) in the world, and has the responsibility of playing the greatest role in nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.”