Foreign Minister Taro Kono pushes membership drive for Arms Trade Treaty

Kyodo, JIJI

Foreign Minister Taro Kono on Monday called for collective efforts to encourage more countries to join the Arms Trade Treaty as an international conference got underway in Tokyo to discuss how to effectively enforce it.

“To continue to increase the number of states parties, we should work together to promote the value and role of the ATT,” Kono told participants at the fourth Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty.

“The treaty aims to enhance regional and international peace and security through the appropriate control of international trade and prevention of illicit transfers of conventional weapons,” Kono said, adding that its “universalization” is one of the imminent challenges.

The ATT took force in December 2014 with the aim of regulating illegal arms trade and preventing weapons from falling into the wrong hands, such as terrorists.

Currently, 97 state parties have signed the treaty, but such major powers as China, India and Russia have yet to sign it. Aside from Japan, only five countries in the Asia-Pacific region have ratified it.

Japan is hosting the conference for the first time and its participants include government officials and representatives from nongovernmental organizations and industry groups.

A series of sessions are scheduled during the five-day conference to discuss a range of topics related to arms trade, such as control systems and interagency cooperation.

The treaty bans states from engaging in the export, import, transit and brokering of tanks, attack helicopters, combat aircraft, warships, missiles and small and light weapons, among other arms, if there is a risk they might be used to commit terrorism or attacks against civilians.

For the host of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, boosting counterterrorism steps is a key task.

At a symposium in Tokyo on Saturday ahead of the conference, Owen Greene, a professor at Britain’s Bradford University, said a number of countries are involved in arms transfers, noting that some countries sell massive amounts of arms while others sell old weapons by refurbishing them.

Nobushige Takamizawa, Japan’s permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament, said at the symposium that both weapons of mass destruction and small arms have claimed numerous lives.