Japan's vote at the United Nations last week to oppose a resolution to start talks on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons is regrettable. It contradicts the nation's long-standing call for the elimination of such weapons as the sole country to have suffered nuclear attacks. Tokyo's latest move — which reflects the government's reliance on the U.S. nuclear umbrella for the nation's security — not only runs counter to the wishes of survivors of the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings but will weaken its voice in international efforts to rid the world of nuclear arms.

On Oct. 27, the First Committee of the U.N. General Assembly, which deals with disarmament and international security, adopted the resolution, with 123 nations voting in favor, 38 against it and 16 abstaining. Six nuclear powers — the United States, Russia, Britain, France and Israel — voted against it, backed by U.S. allies such as Japan, South Korea, Germany and Australia. Three nuclear powers — China, India and Pakistan — abstained. Surprisingly, North Korea, which recently carried out a fifth nuclear weapons test, voted in favor.

Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa played leading roles in drafting the resolution and a total of 57 nations co-sponsored it, citing deep concerns about "catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons." The resolution, which seeks to set up a U.N. conference in March to negotiate a "legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination," will be put to a General Assembly vote in December.