Editorial: TPNW and Japan – Japan should not yield to interference from US

The United States reportedly interfered to prevent Japan from participating as an observer in the First Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), scheduled for March 2022. The United States must be in crisis mode as Germany and more of its allies express their intent to join the meeting as observers.

Truly appalling was how the Japanese government fell in line with the United States, expressing its cautious stance with regard to participation in the meeting. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who was elected as a representative of Hiroshima, has declared his lifework to be creation of a “world without nuclear weapons.” However, failing to persuade the United States of Japan’s desire to join the meeting as an observer is akin to Japan giving up on its role as “mediator,” to say nothing of the idea of eliminating nuclear weapons.

Will he simply yield to pressure from the United States? Mr. Kishida’s determination to accomplish his lifework is being tested.

While U.S. President Joe Biden aims to create a “world without nuclear weapons,” he also needs to remain vigilant against the military expansion and dangerous moves carried out by other nations. Russia has dispatched tens of thousands of troops near its border with Ukraine, and China is ramping up its military pressure on Taiwan.

Under such conditions, the new German government, formed last year in December, announced it would participate in the meeting as an observer, the first member of the Group of Seven industrialized nations to formulate such a policy. It is said that the United States is lobbying Germany to not do so, given its role as major power in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), of which many European countries as well as the United States and Canada are members.

Nevertheless, the movement by the international community displaying understanding and anticipation regarding the TPNW cannot be halted. Reliance on nuclear deterrence, the belief that possessing more powerful weapons than those of other nations somehow provides security, will not only fail to bring regional stability, it will never lead to peace. So long as nuclear weapons exist, there is the risk for misuse of the weapons due to a one-time accident or human error, or intentional use by terrorists, with potential to cause the human race to perish.

From Europe, the NATO member nation Norway and non-members Switzerland, Sweden, and Finland are planning to participate in the gathering as observers. Were the A-bombed nation of Japan to join along, momentum toward nuclear elimination would surely be enhanced. Such a situation must be vexing for the United States.

The previous U.S. Trump administration placed “pressure” on African and Latin American countries in an attempt to prevent the treaty from gaining wider support. The same hostile attitude toward the TPNW has been adopted by the current Biden Administration.

The United States and other nuclear weapons states have ignored voices calling for reductions in nuclear weapons. Countries and citizens groups aiming at the creation of a world free from nuclear weapons ran out of patience and formulated the treaty to formally outlaw the weapons. It could be said that the A-bomb survivors’ many years of effort finally bore fruit.

Denying the treaty means that the nations positioned against the TPNW must show an alternative path to a world without nuclear weapons. One option would be for nuclear weapons states to make a promise or decision that only they could fulfill, such as a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons or no use against non-nuclear weapons states.

Mistrust of nuclear weapons states, however, will only deepen if they continue to reject the TPNW.

During the week of November 29, it was learned that the United States demanded that Japan not take part in the meeting as an observer. It might have affected Prime Minister Kishida’s reply to queries from Japan’s parliamentary body, the Diet, in mid-December, when he adopted a backward-looking stance and said, “I haven’t given it (whether Japan would participate as an observer) much thought.”

Prime Minister Kishida speaks of his “ability to listen.” But rather than the United States, he should listen to the A-bomb survivors in Hiroshima who expect him to take the lead in the fight to abolish nuclear weapons. Realizing a world without nuclear weapons through utilization of the TPNW might still be an opinion held by a minority of the Group of Seven members, but the idea has gained plenty of support worldwide.

(Originally published on December 22, 2021)