Japan to join Humanitarian Initiative at UN First Committee

October 12, 2013

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida announced that Japan will sign the humanitarian statement on the impact of nuclear weapons that New Zealand will deliver at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in October.

When similar statements were delivered, most recently at the NPT PrepCom in Geneva in April as well as at the UNGA last year, Japan refused to sign, saying that the “wording [of the statement] was incompatible with Japan’s security policy that relies on the nuclear deterrence provided by the US.” The response from civil society – rallying against Japan’s intransigence both internationally and in Japan – was instrumental in bringing about the policy shift.

Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue, who denounced the Japanese government’s stance at the memorial ceremony marking the anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing, calling it a betrayal of the world’s expectations, on Friday, he said that Japan’s latest decision marks a real step forward for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

FM Kishido’s announcement was welcomed today as a step forward towards the recognition that the only way to address the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons is a treaty to ban them.

According to Akira Kawasaki of Peace Boat and Member of ICAN’s International Steering Group, “It was citizens’ voice that changed Japan’s behaviour on the statement. Voices of Hibakusha, mayors, parliamentarians and citizens around the globe has reminded the government of its moral responsibility and rejected the old-school discourse to justify nuclear weapons. We hope many other countries would follow, especially from those “nuclear umbrella” countries, to support the humanitarian initiative.

It is clear that the humanitarian focus of nuclear disarmament is now well established on the global agenda and more states – including many countries under the nuclear umbrella – are showing leadership in moving discussions forward.

“We’re happy to see that Japan is joining the growing number of states that is focusing on the humanitarian consequences that nuclear weapons have. Civil society has played a crucial part in getting reluctant governments to take a stand in support of humanitarian principles. We are already seeing that these joint statements are having a significant impact on the way we talk about nuclear weapons, and we are confident that this will continue to build momentum towards negotiating a ban,” says Beatrice Fihn, of ICAN International Steering Group.

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