The Key to a World without Nuclear Weapons

U.N. talks on treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons begin in New York

by Kyosuke Mizukawa, Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- The first-ever conference to discuss a treaty that would ban and abolish nuclear weapons opened at United Nations headquarters in New York on March 27. The initial round of talks will continue until March 31. With a shared understanding of the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear arms, based on the damage wrought to the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the atomic bombs, the representatives of national governments will discuss prohibitions and other topics during this five-day meeting. At the same time, ways to involve the nuclear powers and other non-participants in these talks, in order to realize a fully nuclear-free world, will be a focus of the discussion.

Presiding over the conference is Elayne Whyte Gómez, Ambassador Permanent Representative of the Republic of Costa Rica to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva. On the first day, Toshiki Fujimori, 72, the assistant secretary-general of the Japan Confederation of Atomic and Hydrogen Bomb Sufferers Organizations, delivered a speech. He stressed the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear arms and the need to conclude a treaty to effect a legal ban on these weapons. He ended his speech by saying, “Let us work together to realize a nuclear ban treaty.” High government representatives also made speeches. Over the next several days, until the conference closes on March 31, the participants will discuss such topics as the preamble of the treaty, prohibited matters, and institutional arrangements.

The representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will also speak at the conference. Yasuyoshi Komizo, the secretary-general of Mayors for Peace (for which Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui serves as president), will call on all nations, including the nuclear weapon states, to join the negotiations to outlaw nuclear arms. Austria and other proponents of the treaty are planning to draw up a draft of the treaty before the next round of talks is held in June and July.

In October 2016, a resolution that called for the start of negotiations for such a treaty was supported by 123 nations at the First Committee of the U.N. General Assembly, which deals with disarmament issues, and was adopted by the General Assembly in December. The United States, Russia, and other nuclear weapon states opposed the resolution. Japan, whose security policy relies on the U.S. nuclear umbrella, also opposed the resolution and is currently taking a negative stance toward a treaty that would prohibit nuclear weapons.

(Originally published on March 28, 2017)