Nuclear weapons can be eliminated: Interview with Japanese ambassador to the United Nations

by Yumi Kanazaki, Staff Writer

Momentum for nuclear disarmament, though difficulties remain

The Chugoku Shimbun interviewed Japanese Ambassador to the United Nations Yukio Takasu, during his brief return to Japan, on the current situation of nuclear disarmament diplomacy and the outlook for the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference to be held in May at UN Headquarters in New York.

What is your view of the international situation with regard to nuclear disarmament?
There have been changes unimaginable in the United States under the Bush administration, including the U.S. attitude toward the resolution seeking "a world without nuclear weapons" at the UN Security Council Summit last September, for which U.S. President Barack Obama served as chair.

Suzan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who understands Mr. Obama's intention, is passionate about nuclear disarmament. At the time of North Korea's nuclear test last May, I argued that the test was "a direct threat" to Japan. Ms. Rice expressed her firm intention to prevent North Korea from developing and possessing nuclear weapons. The fact that she is now Japan's partner is encouraging.

The United States was one of the co-sponsors of the Japan-led resolution in pursuit of nuclear abolition at the UN General Assembly last year. Did this move arise from the same momentum?
As the resolution promotes implementing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), we could not gain the approval of the United States under the Bush administration for eight years. However, when we appealed to the United States this time, as the A-bombed nation, the United States shifted its stance.

The resolution in pursuit of "a world without nuclear weapons," which was discussed at the UN Security Council, originally called for nations to "participate" in the CTBT. But Japan's argument for more concrete language, including the use of "sign" and "ratify," enabled these words to be included in the resolution. I think such efforts will have a positive influence on the NPT Review Conference in May.

What is the outlook for the NPT Review Conference?
The previous 2005 NPT Review Conference, which was unable to reach agreement on anything, even the agenda, was the low point. This time, though, the atmosphere feels favorable for nuclear disarmament, the first pillar of the NPT.

However, Iran's nuclear development program has been posing tough problems in regard to nuclear nonproliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy, the second and third pillars of the NPT. Some would argue that "As an NPT member state, Iran is granted the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, which includes enriching uranium. At the same time, why do we not raise questions about the fact that Israel possesses nuclear arms?" In this connection, I have serious concerns about how discussions will develop at the NPT Review Conference.

Will a visit to Hiroshima by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon be realized?
I frequently have a chance to speak with Mr. Ban. "If I have the opportunity to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki," he has essentially told me, "I would like to choose the most meaningful timing." He is now swamped with work as the UN responds to the damage caused by the major earthquake in Haiti, but he is seriously considering such a visit, without a doubt. For Mr. Ban, whose own convictions have made him actively engaged in nuclear disarmament issues, a visit to the A-bombed city on August 6 would be an invaluable experience. To realize the Secretary General's visit, I will make my utmost efforts as the Japanese ambassador to the United Nations.

(Originally published on February 5, 2010)