Interview with Nobushige Takamizawa: Japan can contribute by seeking common ground with nuclear weapon states

by Junji Akechi, Staff Writer

Nobushige Takamizawa served for around three years as Ambassador for Disarmament of the Delegation of Japan to the Conference on Disarmament, representing Japan’s government at the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament in Switzerland. We asked him about the achievements and challenges of Japanese diplomacy in the area of nuclear disarmament during his tenure in the post, as well as the role Japan should play in the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which is scheduled for this spring.

How do you view Japan’s achievements in nuclear disarmament diplomacy?
Japan has continued its efforts for dialogue, by every year submitting to the United Nations General Assembly resolutions on nuclear-weapons abolition, among other activities. At the Group of Eminent Persons Conference, established by the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2017, experts from both nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states discussed nuclear arms-reduction policy. The resulting proposals, such as a call for improved transparency in nuclear policy, were made to the NPT and given high marks by that body. For these proposals to be reflected in actual policy, participation by representative administration officials of all countries will become a key issue in the future.

Last year’s resolution was criticized for watered-down language about the inhumanity of nuclear weapons.
With eyes fixed on the NPT Review Conference, our intention was to find whether each country could find common ground on language and points of contention. It has become clear that there is deep division between nuclear haves and have-nots under the present circumstances. Even as both sides agree on the issues of transparency in policy and disarmament education, non-nuclear weapon states are deeply dissatisfied with the progress being made by nuclear weapon states with respect to nuclear disarmament.

Some A-bomb survivors have a harsh view of the Japanese government, including its attitude toward the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. They say the Japanese government is “friendly” to nuclear weapon states.
I have to admit that the resolution was unpopular with both nuclear and non-nuclear nations. However, Japan participates in diverse groups formed by interested countries, including the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), which is organized by non-nuclear weapon states. Precisely because it is a close ally of the United States, Japan can convey at NPDI meetings differences in nuclear policy between the United States and non-nuclear weapon states and suggest areas of compromise.

Do you think Japan can play a role in the Review Conference?
Japan can contribute by seeking compromise with interested nations about concrete measures and language. If the United States still refuses to join, Japan should persuade them by indicating how confidence in the NPT could be undermined. Even though Japan relies on American nuclear deterrence, that does not mean we cannot say anything to them.

A-bomb survivors and young people are expected to call for abolition of nuclear weapons at the meeting venue.
I want them to communicate the reality of the atomic bombings and call on nuclear powers to make progress on nuclear disarmament. I’m hoping for a message from the A-bombed city that pushes governments to reach an even better agreement.

(Originally published on January 28, 2020)