The Key to a World without Nuclear Weapons

Global discussion on treaty to ban nuclear weapons will begin at U.N. on March 27

by Kyosuke Mizukawa, Staff Writer

Negotiations to establish a breakthrough treaty that would outlaw and eliminate nuclear weapons will open at United Nations headquarters in New York on March 27. The discussions will take place over two time periods, from March 27 to 31 and in June and July, with participation by representatives from national governments. The shared recognition of the inhumanity of the A-bomb damage, which the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were forced to endure, would lay the groundwork for establishing the treaty. A major focus of the first session is whether or not the government of Japan, as the A-bombed nation, will actively take part.

Opening these negotiations for a nuclear ban treaty was decided at the U.N. General Assembly last year. The agenda for the March session will cover the actions to be prohibited, including the use, possession, and development of nuclear weapons, the preamble for the treaty, and the working structure. For the non-nuclear nations, which have been pursuing the realization of such a treaty, the biggest goal for the discussion is to incorporate a clear statement that would completely prohibit the use of nuclear arms, an action they argue is illegal, into the treaty so that this idea can become an international norm. Based on the outcome of this month’s discussion, they hope to finalize a draft of the treaty before the next session begins in June.

In April 2010, a statement by Dr. Jakob Kellenberger, then president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), sparked the recent momentum for nuclear abolition, which urges the elimination of these weapons on the basis of their inhumanity. Referring to the memoir left by the late Marcel Junod, a doctor from the ICRC who brought relief supplies to Hiroshima soon after the atomic bombing, Mr. Kellenberger stressed the destruction done to medical institutions and the damage wrought by radiation as a result of the A-bomb attack.

Additionally, Mr. Kellenberger stated that any use of nuclear weapons would very likely be a breach of international humanitarian law, which bans the use of weapons that cause indiscriminate damage or produce unnecessary suffering. Thus, he called for negotiations on a treaty that would put a clear and total ban on nuclear arms. Since that time, some non-nuclear nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have taken the lead in this quest to outlaw nuclear weapons, against the backdrop of the latest scientific studies on the damage created by a nuclear attack and the long-running appeals made by the A-bomb survivors.

The nuclear powers, however, are adamantly opposed to this movement. To date, the Japanese government has not shown any eagerness to support such a treaty, either, as it holds fast to the U.S. nuclear umbrella for the nation’s security. In the run-up to these negotiations, it has grown even more important to convey a message from the A-bombed cities, which have known the inhumanity of nuclear weapons first-hand.

(Originally published on March 14, 2017)