• Kyodo

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The United States has urged Japan not to attend the first meeting of signatories to a U.N. treaty banning nuclear weapons as an observer, according to U.S. government sources, reflecting Washington’s opposition to the pact.

The Japanese government has suggested it will come into line with the United States and take a cautious approach to the issue, the sources said. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told a parliamentary committee on Thursday that Tokyo has no “concrete plans” to attend the meeting as an observer.

The sources said the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden made the request to Japan through diplomatic channels after German political parties announced Nov. 24 that the deal for the new ruling coalition included taking part as an observer at the meeting, which is scheduled for March in Vienna.

Kishida also suggested last week that participation in the meeting would be premature “before building a relationship of trust with President Biden.”

Germany’s move has put Japan — which has stated that it aspires to a world free of nuclear weapons as the only country to have suffered the devastation of atomic bombings — in the spotlight. Both countries are key U.S. allies that rely on American nuclear forces for protection.

The U.S. government has maintained its opposition to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force in January this year, despite Biden pledging to strive for a world without nuclear weapons.

Washington believes an outright ban on nuclear weapons in the absence of any promises from nuclear-armed states would not produce substantial progress toward disarmament, while committing to obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that has led to incremental disarmament efforts.

The U.S. government is also calling on the new German coalition government, launched earlier this month, to give up on the idea of taking part in the March 22-24 meeting in Vienna, according to the sources.

The new U.N. treaty completely outlaws the development, testing, possession and use of nuclear weapons. It only binds states that have formally signed and ratified it.

More than 50 countries, including Austria, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Africa and Vietnam, have ratified the pact, according to the website of the U.N. Office for Disarmament Affairs.

But nuclear weapon states, including the United States, Russia and China, are not signatories. Japan has also refrained from signing the pact in consideration of its long-standing security alliance with the United States.

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