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Japan loses support of U.S., Britain, France for U.N. resolution on abolishing nukes

Published 7 November 2015

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, November 04, 2015

Japan received a shocking wake-up call to global realities on Nov. 2 after going all-out to push its resolution in the United Nations on abolishing nuclear weapons.

The resolution was submitted to the U.N. General Assembly’s First Committee that deals with disarmament and security issues. Similar resolutions have been submitted annually since 1994, but Japan thought it had a better chance this time with 2015 marking the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Last year, the United States and Britain served as co-sponsors of the resolution.
But this year, those two nations not only declined to co-sponsor the resolution, they also abstained from the vote in the First Committee. France also abstained even though it voted in favor of last year’s resolution.

In total, 156 nations voted for the resolution, with three opposed, including China and Russia, both nuclear powers.

After the Nov. 2 vote, Toshio Sano, Japan’s disarmament envoy, admitted that Japan’s strategy had failed.

“There is a major gap in the positions on how to push forward with nuclear disarmament between (nuclear powers and non-nuclear nations),” Sano told reporters in New York.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida had stressed that Japan would play a role in bridging the gap between nuclear powers and non-nuclear nations. Instead, Japan saw its goal of realizing a nuclear-free world move further away with the positions taken by the nuclear powers this year.

In this year’s resolution, Japan for the first time included the term “hibakushas,” or survivors of the atomic bombings, as one way of emphasizing the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.

The resolution also encouraged leaders of the world to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki to see for themselves the damage caused by such weapons.

At the same time, Japan tried to gain the support of the nuclear powers for its resolution by not specifying a deadline for abolishing nuclear weapons. Such a stance has been criticized by hibakusha groups as a lukewarm position for the only nation in history to suffer from the dropping of nuclear weapons.

The abstention by the United States must have come as a shock to the Foreign Ministry. Ever since U.S. President Barack Obama himself called for moving toward a nuclear-free world in 2009, the United States has served as a co-sponsor of the U.N. resolutions with Japan and other nations.

The inclusion in this year’s resolution of references to the “humanitarian consequences” of nuclear weapons may have led to the change in Washington’s position.

After the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons ended in May with no agreement, some non-nuclear powers began calling for a treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons, using the inhumane aspects of the weapons as a major argument.

The nuclear powers, including the United States, have looked warily at such trends, and that may have served as background to the new view of the Japanese resolution.
Meanwhile, China has continued to brush aside Japan’s emphasis on the damage caused by the atomic bombs, saying that was the direct result of Japan’s war of aggression.

(This article was written by Hajimu Takeda in Tokyo and Ryuichi Kanari in New York.)