The Key to a World without Nuclear Weapons

Nuclear weapons ban treaty opens for signatures on September 20, with hope that 50 nations will ratify on first day

by Kyosuke Mizukawa, Staff Writer

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which puts a comprehensive ban on nuclear arms, will be open for signatures on September 20. The nuclear weapons ban treaty was backed and adopted by 122 countries at the treaty talks held at the United Nations in July. The preamble refers to the suffering of the A-bomb survivors and prohibits the development, possession, and use of nuclear weapons. The countries that are promoting the treaty are seeking its early implementation. However, like the United States and other nuclear weapon states, the Japanese government, which relies on the U.S. nuclear umbrella for the nation’s security, has said that it will not sign or ratify the treaty.

On the day of the signing ceremony, some non-nuclear countries will gather at the United Nations headquarters in New York in the morning, local time. The treaty stipulates that it will take effect when at least 50 countries, after signing the treaty, complete the necessary procedures domestically and ratify it. Attention is now focused on whether the number of signatory nations can exceed the minimum number needed for entry into force of the treaty on the first day of signatures. If the ratification procedures proceed smoothly in each supportive country, the treaty is expected to take effect as early as within a year. Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue and Terumi Tanaka, 85, the co-chair of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo), will both take part in the signing ceremony.

Amid rising global tensions over North Korea’s sixth nuclear test on September 3, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a non-governmental organization that supports the treaty, is stressing the importance of the nuclear weapons ban treaty by saying that if a significant number of countries sign the treaty, this will send a clear message to North Korea that nuclear weapons are unacceptable. The organization is urging all nations to sign the treaty.

Meanwhile, the United States, which boycotted the U.N. negotiations to establish the treaty, took the stance that it would not sign or ratify the treaty immediately after the agreement was adopted, and has contended that the treaty will not help resolve the serious threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also indicated that the Japanese government would not sign or ratify the treaty when he spoke at a news conference held in Hiroshima on August 6. Nihon Hidankyo and other anti-nuclear organizations in Hiroshima have been persistently urging the Japanese government to withdraw from a security framework that relies on nuclear deterrence and, instead, join the nuclear weapons ban treaty.

(Originally published on September 17, 2017)