This month, the new German government announced that it intends to participate as an observer in the meeting of states which are party to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Japan — which, like Germany, is protected by America’s “nuclear umbrella” — remains skeptical. This difference in approach stands out.
The new German government has said that it wants to take a leadership role in the drive for nuclear disarmament. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who serves as a member of the House of Representatives for the nuclear bomb site, Hiroshima, should show resolve and declare Japan’s intent to participate as an observer country.
The treaty, which bans the possession, use and threat to use nuclear weapons, took effect in January. So far, 57 countries and regions have ratified the treaty, and a meeting of the states which are party to the treaty will be held next March.
Countries that have not yet ratified the treaty are allowed to express their opinions on as observers. Two members of the NATO military alliance, Germany and Norway, have decided to participate in this manner.
Kishida, who has made nuclear disarmament his life’s work, praised the treaty as “a critical treaty that may provide a pathway to a world without nuclear weapons.” And yet, he is pessimistic about Japan’s participation as an observer because of America’s continued opposition.
Instead, Kishida is focused on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, in which even countries that possess nuclear weapons, including America, participate. A conference to review the treaty’s operation is planned for the new year, the first to be held in seven years.
Kishida appointed Minoru Terada, a child of atomic bomb victims, as his aide in charge of nuclear disarmament. In preparation for the NPT review conference, he intends to deploy Terada to relevant countries to encourage movement toward a nuclear-free world.
However, at the last conference, there was a gap between relevant countries that remained unresolved, and no final document was adopted. Confrontation between America and China and Russia has only worsened in the interim, leaving little hope of concrete progress.
Japan is surrounded by countries with nuclear weapons, including China, Russia and North Korea. Unlike the European members of NATO, Japan is not protected by any collective security mechanism.
However, as the only country to have suffered the detonation of nuclear weapons, Japan has the duty to take whatever diplomatic measures are necessary to abolish them.
The TPNW embodies the appeals from those who suffered the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Japan must participate as an observer, and pressure the nuclear powers to reflect the progress of the TPNW in their review of the NPT. Serving as a bridge between nuclear and non-nuclear countries is precisely the role that Japan should play.