Editorial: Support for joint statement banning use of nuclear weapons

A step forward but…

It only makes sense to believe that the use of nuclear weapons is unacceptable for any reason.

The Japanese government has indicated its intention to support a joint statement on the inhumanity of nuclear weapons to be issued by 16 nations at a meeting of the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly on October 17 local time. Three similar statements have been issued thus far, but Japan has failed to lend its support to any of them saying that they were not in line with the nation’s security policy. As a result, the government was harshly criticized by Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Perhaps the voices of the atomic bomb survivors and the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have finally gotten through. First of all, we regard this as a step forward. We would like the Japanese government to take this opportunity to galvanize international opinion in favor of the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Sixteen nations, including New Zealand and Switzerland, are urging support for the statement, which calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons, stating that their use will lead to devastating consequences.

Why hasn’t the government supported these statements so far? The statements have stated: “It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances.” The government says the problem is with the phrase “under any circumstances.”

As a result of North Korea’s nuclear program and other developments in the region, there is growing tension in East Asia. The government apparently believes that if Japan seeks a ban on the use of nuclear weapons it will be inconsistent with the nation’s reliance on the nuclear deterrence of the United States.

But, no matter what reason they cite, it is hard to understand how Japan, which touts its “non-nuclear diplomacy,” could fail to support a statement in favor of nuclear abolition. It’s only natural that criticism should emerge from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who gave a press conference yesterday, explained why the government had changed its position on the matter. “After reviewing the entire statement, we determined that we could support it,” he said. If that’s the case, that’s great. But we’re a little concerned about the content of the latest statement.

The final wording of the statement has not yet been decided on, but it may have been changed in response to a request from Japan. There is also concern that it will use more abstract wording such as “aiming for no use of nuclear weapons.”

The government has also said that it won’t sign the statement until it confirms that Japan’s position will not be too restricted as a result.

This seems to suggest that, while advocating the abolition of nuclear weapons, Japan will continue to rely on the nuclear umbrella of the U.S. If the government’s “non-nuclear diplomacy” is just so much talk, there is a gross self-contradiction.

With regard to security, the Abe administration has indicated its intention to change the interpretation of the Constitution and to approve the exercise of the right of collective defense. That is to say, if the U.S. is attacked by another country, Japan can retaliate against that country. If the other country has nuclear weapons, this could lead to Japan becoming involved in a nuclear war.

A relationship in which Japan can threaten neighboring countries or be threatened by them ultimately will not bring about security.

In a related development, yesterday the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The group has recently begun to dispose of chemical weapons in Syria, where they have been used amid the ongoing civil war. This is a vindication of the criticism of the international community, which called foul over this inhumanity involving innocent citizens.

The inhumanity of nuclear weapons also remains unchanged. All are forms of absolute evil that should, of course, be banned.

Japan needs to take the lead in the international community to bring about a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

The government should not criticize the statement’s binding force but rather keep in mind the historic responsibility it bears to proclaim to the world the inhumanity of nuclear weapons.

(Originally published on October 12, 2013)