UN Conference on Disarmament Issues opens in Japan

by Yumi Kanazaki, Staff Writer

The United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues in Saitama, co-organized by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs and other entities, opened on August 27 at a hotel in Saitama City, near Tokyo. Approximately 90 participants are involved, including government officials in charge of disarmament and academics from 12 nations. This year’s conference, with the theme of “Nuclear Disarmament, Non-Proliferation, and Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy: Trends and Challenges,” will discuss these issues until August 29.

On the first day, August 27, the conference mainly discussed how substantial agreements on nuclear disarmament at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in 2010 should be achieved and how nuclear proliferation, which is inextricably linked to nuclear energy use, should be prevented. The participants shared their views, reflecting on the previous Review Conference held in 2005, as well as on the nuclear issues concerning North Korea and Iran.

Ambassador Jurg Streuli, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the Conference on Disarmament, pointed out, with the nuclear development issue of North Korea in mind, “To persuade member nations to remain in the NPT regime, I suggest that if a nation withdraws from the regime, it obliges the nation to return the nuclear materials and supplies that it possesses.”

As one objective for the next Review Conference, Jackie Cabasso, North America Coordinator for the Mayors for Peace, proposed that the conference adopt the “Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol” announced by Mayors for Peace as a possible road map toward the abolition of nuclear weapons by 2020.

Some voices of concern were also heard about the U.S.-India Nuclear Agreement in which India, a non-signatory to the NPT, and the United States are seeking to bring this agreement into effect. Mitsuru Kurosawa, a professor at Osaka Jogakuin University, harshly criticized the pact, and remarked, “The agreement permits India the same rights as the nuclear powers without imposing any obligation to disarm. This will lead to the complete collapse of the NPT regime.”

The United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues is held annually in Japan. This year marks the 20th conference.

(Originally published on August 28, 2008)