Nuclear weapons can be eliminated: Interview with Ambassador of Japan to Conference on Disarmament

by Kohei Okata, Staff Writer

Japan appeals for nuclear abolition while policy nods to reality

The Chugoku Shimbun interviewed Ambassador Akio Suda, head of the Delegation of Japan to the Conference on Disarmament, who spearheads the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation diplomacy of the Japanese government, on the outlook for the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May, among other things.

Do you think this NPT Review Conference will produce tangible results?
Compared to the previous 2005 NPT Review Conference, the United States, under the Obama administration, has been making visible moves toward nuclear disarmament. I'm doing my utmost in the hope that we can achieve positive results.

What are the causes for concern?
My hope is that there will be movement with regard to several important issues, but I'm not yet seeing prospects for success in these areas. For instance, when will the United States finally ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)? And the issues involving the Middle East, which always raise controversy at NPT Review Conferences, have seen no progress. These are the main causes for concern. I don't believe this NPT Review Conference will be an easy one.

What role will Japan play?
The underpinning of our effort is Japan's standing as the only nation to have suffered nuclear attack. As a nation that has determined a philosophy and policy by which it will never possess nuclear weapons, we are in a position to clearly express our stance, even to the nuclear weapon states. Meanwhile, we are entwined within a complex security environment, including our alliance with the United States. Japan's policy has been pursued in light of this reality, while, at the same time, appealing for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

To push Japan's stance to the forefront and lay the ground for a successful NPT Review Conference, I have held numerous discussions with nations and people concerned since last year. Libran Cabactulan, the Assistant Secretary for Foreign Affairs in the Philippines who will chair the NPT Review Conference, visited my official residence at the end of last year and we had a frank exchange of views.

Do you believe the report issued by the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND) will have a favorable influence on the conference?
The report presents specific proposals which outline how the total elimination of nuclear weapons may be approached. It is highly valued by concerned parties in many nations. The ICNND report will surely contribute to fostering lively discussion at the conference.

Will it be possible to resume negotiations for a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty at the Geneva Conference on Disarmament?
I'm doing my best, but the situation with Pakistan, in particular, has been difficult. Pakistan is unhappy with the cooperation other nations have been extending to India, including the Nuclear Energy Cooperation Agreement concluded between India and the United States. I'm trying to persuade Pakistan that the issue is a matter of regional security and not directly related to the negotiations for the Cut-Off Treaty. But, at this point, there have been no prospects for success.

The Conference on Disarmament, which includes all nuclear weapon states among its members, is not merely a forum for exchanging views; it's a venue for negotiating and creating a treaty. Together with other nations, we must step up our efforts to seek common ground.

(Originally published on February 6, 2010)