UN joint statement against use of nuclear weapons, supported by 155 countries and regions including Japan

by Osamu Kido, Staff Writer

On October 20, a total of 155 countries and regions, including Japan and New Zealand, issued a joint statement at the First Committee (disarmament) of the United Nations General Assembly on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, demanding that nuclear weapons never be used again. This is the fifth such joint statement concerning nuclear weapons. The number of countries and regions backing the fifth joint statement is the largest to date, accounting for about 80 percent of the member states of the United Nations. This may put pressure on the nuclear weapon states to make more concrete efforts to advance nuclear disarmament in the run-up to the next Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), scheduled to take place in April 2015.

This is the second time Japan has lent its support to a joint statement of this kind; the first occasion was in October 2013. At a press conference on October 21, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, elected from district one in Hiroshima, declared that Japan will continue to help lead the international community by taking realistic and practical measures to bring about a world without nuclear weapons.

The joint statement calls for nuclear arms not to be used, saying, “It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances.” It also states, “The only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons will never be used again is through their total elimination.”

The Japanese government did not sign the first three joint statements because it argued that these would be inconsistent with its security policy and its reliance on the U.S. nuclear umbrella, among other reasons. Mr. Kishida explained that Japan is backing the joint statement this time because it is compatible with Japanese policy in that the statement approves various approaches to advance a world without nuclear weapons.

The number of nations supporting the latest joint statement has grown significantly from last year’s total of 125 countries. The 155 countries and regions include the Vatican and Palestine, two non-member “observer states” of the United Nations.

On October 20, 20 countries including Japan and Australia issued a separate statement. While this statement recognizes the horrific consequences for humanity that would result from the use of a nuclear weapon, it also states that the global community must address the security dimensions of this issue and work with realism to bring about nuclear disarmament. A similar statement was issued last year, too, and Japan supported it.

Humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons gains growing recognition

by Kohei Okata and Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writers

A range of voices were raised in Hiroshima on October 21, calling for stronger efforts to abolish nuclear weapons, when it was learned that the First Committee (disarmament) of the United Nations General Assembly issued a joint statement which recognizes the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and demands that they never be used again. The statement is supported by 155 countries and regions, the largest number to back this kind of statement to date.

This is the fifth joint statement involving nuclear arms, with the fourth issued in October 2013. This is the second statement supported by Japan, following last year’s statement. Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui commented, “I welcome the steady increase in the number of countries that oppose the use of nuclear weapons, recognizing their inhumane consequences. Japan is also a part of this mainstream.” He expects that the latest statement will help strengthen momentum to abolish nuclear weapons by 2020, a call made by Mayors for Peace. Mr. Matsui serves as president of this organization.

Since the last joint statement, however, little progress has been made during the past year to advance nuclear disarmament. Sunao Tsuboi, 89, chair of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations, believes that the rising number of nations backing the joint statements is a starting point for abolishing nuclear weapons. “Mechanisms must be put in place to strictly prohibit the use of nuclear weapons,” he said. “Even though the international community is demanding nuclear abolition, Japan and other countries under the nuclear umbrella may not move forward.”

Kunihiko Sakuma, 70, vice chairman of the other Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations, chaired by Kazushi Kaneko, stated, with regard to Japan’s endorsement of the joint statement, “I suppose Japan found it hard to oppose the joint statement, against stronger international voices. But if the statement becomes pro forma, it will be meaningless.” He added gravely, “Japan must not take a two-faced approach in signing the statement as a mere formality while clinging to the nuclear weapons of the United States.”

(Originally published on October 22, 2014)