Japan waters down anti-nuclear resolution due to US pressure, government sources say

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 October, 2017, 2:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 October, 2017, 2:00am

Japan’s annual diplomatic effort to demonstrate its anti-nuclear credentials and create momentum for disarmament has run into a major obstacle in the form of its most important ally, as well as an atmosphere of division between states possessing atomic weapons and those without them.

A draft resolution recently proposed by the government of Japan to the United Nations General Assembly was dramatically watered downed under diplomatic pressure from the United States, government sources have revealed.

Japan, the only nation attacked with nuclear weapons – the US dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki 72 years ago – has proposed a series of draft resolutions on nuclear disarmament to the General Assembly every year since 1994.

Last year, its proposed resolution was adopted at the assembly’s plenary session with support from 167 nations, including the US, while China, North Korea, Russia and Syria opposed and 16 other nations abstained.

In the middle of October this year, Japan submitted a resolution it had drafted, titled “United action with renewed determination toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons.”

Close examination of the text found a few major changes from past resolutions.

Since 2010, Japan included a sentence which emphasises “deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapon”. The phrase has been a keyword for international movements pursuing a world without nuclear weapons.

In July, this anti-nuclear campaign culminated in the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations. It is the first international law which prohibits state parties from developing, testing, possessing and using nuclear weapons in any manner including the “threat of use”.

In the most recently proposed resolution, the government of Japan deleted the word, “any” from the frequently used phrase. The text expressed “deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use”.

It seems a minor rhetorical change, but the deletion drew severe criticism from nuclear disarmament specialists in Japan.

“The omission of the word ‘any’ implies there could be a case of nuclear weapon use that would not cause inhumane consequences and therefore this type of use might be permitted,” said Tatsujiro Suzuki, director of the Research Centre for Nuclear Weapons Abolition at Nagasaki University. “It can’t be helped if Japan will be regarded as an unfit advocate for the abolition of nuclear weapons.”

Akira Kawasaki, an International Steering Group member of ICAN, or the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said: “The Japanese draft resolution looks like one proposed by the United States or any other nuclear weapon states.”

ICAN was this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The governmental sources suggested that US President Donald Trump’s administration opposes using the word “any” and Japan made a concession to get Washington’s support for the document.

Trump has indicated a desire to modernise America’s nuclear arsenal because of the ongoing crisis involving North Korea’s atomic weapons and missile development. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly requested the US security assurance for Japan including “nuclear umbrella”.

Another conspicuous change in the latest Japanese resolution is that it urges only North Korea to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The US Republican Party is widely known as a strong opponent of CTBT.

“Our new draft resolution is the result of policy considerations for creating a common ground between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapons states for furthering a practical approach (toward nuclear abolition),” said one official of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs without specifically explaining why they decided to make the noticeable changes in the draft resolution.