A Japan-sponsored resolution calling for the total elimination of nuclear arms was passed by a United Nations committee on Thursday, but the United States — a key Tokyo ally — abstained, calling it a "step back" from last year's document.

The First Committee on Disarmament Issues at the U.N. General Assembly also adopted a resolution calling on member states to ratify a landmark treaty banning nuclear weapons at an early date.

Tokyo has penned and put forward a similar motion calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons for the past 25 consecutive years, with the latest version endorsed by 160 countries — up 16 from last year. Four countries — China, North Korea, Russia and Syria — voted against it, and 24 abstained.