Japan refuses to sign international document describing nuclear weapons as inhumane

April 25, 2013

By YASUSHI SAITO/ Staff Writer

GENEVA--Despite being the only nation to have suffered atomic bombing, Japan has again refused to sign a document that describes nuclear weapons as inhumane.

The document is a joint statement that was presented April 24 at the second session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons being held in Geneva.

Japanese officials said the document's wording made it difficult to approve it because it would contradict Japan's policy of reliance on the U.S. nuclear umbrella for national security purposes.

The joint statement expresses deep concerns for the devastation that would result if nuclear weapons were used and states that "the only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons will never be used again is through their total elimination."

About 70 nations, including South Africa and Switzerland, have signed on to the document.

A similar joint document was presented by 16 nations at the first session held last May. At that time, Japan decided not to join because officials were not approached beforehand.

A similar joint statement was presented by 34 nations to the First Committee of the U.N. General Assembly last October. The document called for making nuclear weapons illegal. That wording led Japanese officials to say they could not agree to the document because it would run counter to their policy of depending on the nuclear deterrence provided by the United States.

In the latest document, wording about making nuclear weapons illegal was dropped and Japanese officials were also told about the pending document some 10 days before its release.

On April 22, Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue and Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui visited Japan's permanent mission to the Conference on Disarmament and asked Ambassador Mari Amano to concur with the wording in the latest document.

However, other passages in the document led Japanese officials to hesitate about siding with it. Particularly troublesome was the phrase, "It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances."

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga explained at an April 25 news conference: "We decided not to give our approval after careful consideration over whether the wording was appropriate upon thinking about the difficult national security circumstances facing Japan."

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who represents a district in Hiroshima Prefecture, gave instructions to seek a revision of that phrasing from South Africa and Switzerland, which were in charge of preparing the document. However, no agreement could be reached on a revised version.

Talking to reporters in Geneva, Amano said that while he empathized with the concerns raised about the humanitarian aspects of nuclear warfare, "Japan's thinking on national security is somewhat different (from the document)."

He added: "While our ultimate aim is to abolish nuclear weapons, we believe the necessary steps have to be taken toward that goal."

Organizations seeking the abolition of nuclear weapons were outraged that Japan refused to sign the document.

About 60 people protested outside of Japan's permanent mission in Geneva, including Ichiro Yuasa, who heads Peace Depot, an NPO that does research on nuclear disarmament.

"We have to raise doubts about how aware the Japanese government is about the inhumaneness of nuclear weapons," he said. "This is a typical example of policy being implemented directed at a foreign audience, even though it runs counter to what a large majority of the Japanese public believes in. That policy is based on the self-contradiction of having to depend for security on weapons that should not be allowed to exist."

Kunihiko Sakuma, 68, an atomic bomb survivor from Hiroshima, said, "Many people died because of the atomic bomb. As a hibakusha, I cannot accept the decision."

The Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were leveled by atomic bombings in 1945.

By YASUSHI SAITO/ Staff Writer
  • 1
submit to reddit
Demonstrators shout slogans in front of Japan's permanent mission to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on April 24. (Yasushi Saito)

Demonstrators shout slogans in front of Japan's permanent mission to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on April 24. (Yasushi Saito)

  • Demonstrators shout slogans in front of Japan's permanent mission to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on April 24. (Yasushi Saito)

More AJW