Prime Minister Kishida speaks with Chugoku Shimbun President Okahata, insists Japan’s role is to persuade nuclear weapon states to seek world without nuclear weapons

by Seiji Shitakubo, Staff Writer

As the new year approached, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (representing Hiroshima Prefecture’s District No. 1) sat down to speak with the Chugoku Shimbun’s President Tetsuya Okahata at the prime minister’s residence in Tokyo. Mr. Kishida expressed his determination for a final document to be adopted at the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, expected to be held in the summer of 2022, following the conference’s fourth postponement, underscoring his idea that adoption would “be the first step toward a ‘world without nuclear weapons.’” He added that Japan, the only nation in the world to have experienced nuclear attacks in wartime, would undertake the role of persuading nuclear weapons states to steadily promote nuclear disarmament. Regarding the issue of money in politics, he said he would aim at the next ordinary session of Japan’s parliament (Diet) to revise what is formally known as the Act on Annual Payment, Travel Expenses, Allowances, etc., Payable to Members of the Diet.

In the conversation, Mr. Kishida stressed the importance of the NPT Review Conference, to be held in New York City in the United States, with a view to what he has called his life’s work of nuclear abolition. He revealed his “hope to seek where the limit lies for coming to a mutual agreement between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapons states, as well as to adopt a final document at the conference to pave the way for the next step,” amid concerns about further delays in deliberations about nuclear disarmament due to the conference’s postponement from January 2022. The previous NPT Review Conference, held in 2015, ended in a standoff between nuclear weapon and non-nuclear weapon states.

Mr. Kishida positioned anew the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) as a path forward toward a “world without nuclear weapons.” He also said, however, that Japan’s participation as an observer in the first meeting of the State Parties to the TPNW, scheduled for March, was “not an option at present.” He explained that his statement reflected the fact that nuclear weapon states stand opposed to the treaty.

Mr. Kishida also expressed his view that the world needed to pursue ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and proceed with negotiations for the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), both of which remain at a standstill, to encourage nuclear weapon states to pull closer to the TPNW. He added he would give top priority to the early realization of a Japan-U.S. summit meeting, among other plans, based on the idea that building trust with U.S. President Joe Biden was a prerequisite to the other efforts.

Mr. Okahata called for Hiroshima to host the summit meeting of the G7 (G7 summit, attended by the Group of Seven industrialized nations), to be held in Japan in 2023. In reply Mr. Kishida said, “It would be of great significance to have world leaders learn firsthand of the consequences of the atomic bombing.” Nevertheless, he explained that no decision had been made in terms of selection of a candidate city for hosting the summit.

Mr. Kishida referred to the issue of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) headquarters providing 150 million yen to Katsuyuki Kawai, a former lower house member, and his wife Anri Kawai, a former upper house member, who were found guilty in a large-scale vote-buying scandal in Hiroshima Prefectural voting districts in 2019 upper house elections. He said he would pursue reform of the LDP, giving serious consideration to the fact that party leadership at the time of the elections scandal had lost public trust. He did not mention any new investigation into the incident, including the process by which the LDP provided the money.

At the ordinary session of the Diet, expected to be convened on January 17, Mr. Kishida said his administration would make efforts as a ruling party composed of the LDP and Komeito to enact revisions to the Act on Annual Payment, Travel Expenses, Allowances, etc., Payable to Members of the Diet. The revisions would obligate Diet members to return their annual allowances if deprived of their elected posts due to their being in violation of election laws.

(Originally published on January 1, 2022)