NPT Preparatory Committee closes, summary released

by Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writer

GENEVA—The Second Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, held in Geneva, Switzerland, closed on May 3. Cornel Feruta, the chair of the gathering, released the chairman’s summary, which rebuked North Korea for conducting a nuclear test this past February and reaffirmed the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons.

At this preparatory committee, South Africa presented a joint statement which declared: “It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances.” This statement was endorsed by more than 70 nations.

The chairman’s summary includes the words: “States parties recalled their deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.” However, Japan, the only nation to have suffered nuclear attack, chose not to support the joint statement, dampening the enthusiasm moving to reduce and eliminate nuclear arms by focusing on the inhumanity of nuclear weapons.

The summary also expressed “serious concern” about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, calling it “a challenge to the (Nuclear Non-proliferation) Treaty.” It was agreed that the international community will continue its efforts, including within the framework of the six-party talks, to find a peaceful solution to this dilemma.

Though there was consensus at the 2010 Review Conference on holding an international conference in 2012 concerning the establishment of a Middle East zone that would be free of nuclear arms, the gathering was not realized. Wrangling over this issue, with Arab nations raising objections and Egypt walking out of talks, has produced an impasse. The chairman’s summary states: “Many States parties expressed support for convening the Conference as soon as possible and no later than the end of 2013.”

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui visited Geneva from April 22 through 25 and delivered a speech at an official function, appealing for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

The Third Session of the Preparatory Committee will open in New York on April 28, 2014 and be in session for two weeks.

Japan refuses to support joint statement

by Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writer

Geneva—The Second Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference was held amid rising international tensions due to repeated acts of provocation by North Korea, including threats of a ballistic missile launch. But what attracted significant attention was a joint statement on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, which the Japanese government refused to support.

This preparatory committee did not see nuclear states stepping up their efforts for nuclear disarmament. It also brought to light the rocky path toward a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East and the fragility of the non-proliferation regime. The joint statement was an attempt by the non-nuclear-weapon states to break the status quo.

Two other statements, seeking the same end, were adopted last year: one at the first preparatory committee and the other at a gathering of the United Nations General Assembly. Sixteen nations supported the first statement, and 35 backed the second. The latest statement was endorsed by more than 70 countries. This rise in the number of supporters suggests that a new tide toward nuclear arms reduction has developed.

Japan was asked to sign all three statement, but refused to do so. Regarding the second statement, the Japanese government explained that it decided to withhold its support because the portion calling for nuclear weapons to be made illegal under international law was not consistent with the nation’s security policy. At the recent preparatory committee, Switzerland and other supporters of the third statement moved to omit the language calling nuclear arms “illegal,” in the hope that Japan would then lend its support, too.

But with conditions in East Asia growing more tense, the Japanese government chose not to sign the statement out of concern over its impact on the U.S. nuclear umbrella. In this way, Japan has openly acknowledged its reliance on nuclear weapons.

Some supporters of the joint statement point out that the nations protected under the nuclear umbrella are causing their neighbors to feel anxious and so they aspire to possess nuclear weapons, too.

In a speech made at the preparatory committee, a representative from the Japanese government stated that Japan will give serious consideration to signing a subsequent statement. In order to pursue true non-nuclear diplomacy as the A-bombed nation, it is time Japan began making an earnest effort to address security issues without relying on the nuclear umbrella.

(Originally published on May 4, 2013)