NEW YORK – The U.N. General Assembly on Monday endorsed a Japanese anti-nuclear resolution by a wide margin, although fewer countries backed it than in previous years amid perceptions of its backpedaling on disarmament.
The motion, submitted by Japan for the 24th year in a row, was supported by 156 nations, down 11 from last year. It was opposed by the same four nations as last year — China, North Korea, Russia and Syria — while 24 abstained, eight more than last year.
This year’s vote took place against the backdrop of the July 7 adoption of the landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which for the first time bans nuclear weapons. Its supporters have consistently criticized the text of Japan’s latest resolution, saying its language backtracks on previous agreements and makes no mention of the ban treaty.
Among other things, the resolution “renews the determination of all states to take united action toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons through easing of international tension and strengthening the trust between states … in order to facilitate disarmament and through strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime.”
Meanwhile, an official from a nuclear state who requested anonymity praised Tokyo for “reflecting what is actually happening in the world” through its revised text.
In Tokyo, Foreign Minister Taro Kono stressed the breadth of support for the resolution, saying it was backed by 95 countries agreeing with the ban treaty as well as nuclear powers the United States, Britain and France.
“Out of all the motions on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation submitted to the United Nations, Japan’s has the most support from countries taking various different positions,” Kono told a news conference.
The ban treaty got an extra boost in October when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. The group was selected for their work highlighting the plight of atomic bomb survivors such as Setsuko Thurlow, who has often spoken out at the United Nations and will be among those in attendance at the Oslo award ceremony for the prize.
A U.N. committee in late October backed Japan’s motion by 144 votes, with four “no” votes and 27 abstentions. The greater number of “yes” votes at the General Assembly was due to some countries not present for the committee vote casting positive votes, including Fiji, Vanuatu, Sierra Leone and Gambia.