Dispatches from Nagasaki No.3

A Cross-Party Working Team of Japanese Diet Members Undertakes Efforts to Establish a Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone

 

(September 15, 2012) The Working Team to Promote a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (NEA-NWFZ), established within the Japanese section of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND), released its public statement on team activities at the end of the last month. This is the first time in Japan that a cross-party group of Diet members has officially disclosed that it is working on such a cooperative initiative. Five months have passed since the decision to form the team was made.

The report on the current status of the Working Team’s activities was given at the PNND General Assembly held in Astana, Kazakhstan on August 30. Chair Hideo Hiraoka (Democratic Party of Japan, Yamaguchi Prefecture) was forced to cancel his appearance due to the troubled state of political affairs in Japan, but a representative in attendance read out a prepared document in his place. According to MP Hiraoka, the Working Team is a cross-party group of Diet members who are affiliated with PNND Japan and engaged in efforts to draft an outline of a NEA-NWFZ Treaty. At the beginning of August they began discussions on the outline.

According to the draft outline that was handed out, the NEA-NWFZ Treaty would involve the six countries constituting the Six-Party Talks on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Three of these countries, Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) would be included in the geographical zone. These three countries would be obliged to be free of nuclear weapons and would be referred to as the Intrazonal States. The three countries in possession of nuclear weapons (China, the U.S.A. and Russia), would be referred to as Neighboring Nuclear Weapon States and be obliged to provide security assurance not to use or threaten to use any nuclear weapons against any of the countries inside the zone, as well as to commit to global nuclear disarmament. As U.S. military bases are maintained in Japan and South Korea, the deployment of nuclear weapons in these countries had been problematic in the past. Under the draft outline, it is specified that the treaty is applied to any military facilities under the control of a Neighboring Nuclear Weapon State that are located within the territory of an Intrazonal State.

In Astana, the proactive role assumed by members of the Japanese Diet met with words of praise and encouragement from experts, NGOs and parliamentary members from a number of countries.

Parliamentarians’ efforts to establish a NEA-NWFZ first began in 2008, although not initially as a cross-party movement. On August 8, 2008, the Nuclear Disarmament Group of DPJ (chaired by House of Representatives member Katsuya Okada) announced its Proposal for a NEA-NWFZ Treaty at a hotel in Nagasaki City. From then on, the activities were continued by a cross-party group of Diet members affiliated with PNND. In 2010, like-minded parliamentary members affiliated with PNND Japan and PNND Korea issued a joint statement in support of the denuclearization of Northeast Asia. The statement, which claimed that “a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-free Zone initiative will be effective for achieving the denuclearization of the region,” was signed by eighty-six parliamentary members from six political parties in Japan and seven members from three parties in South Korea. MP Hiraoka noted in his report that Japanese Diet members visited Seoul at the end of November 2009 to exchange opinions with a group of Korean parliamentary members and NGOs and then the South Korean members of parliament came to Tokyo at the end of February 2010 to take part in a public symposium. It was at this time that the above-mentioned joint statement was drafted by the Japanese and Korean representatives. Japanese Diet members made an additional visit to South Korea in March of 2011, but the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred soon afterward and any further reciprocal visits were put on hold as the Japanese government focused on post-disaster relief efforts.

As of May 10, 2012, more than 800 members from eighty countries are participating in this international network of cross-party parliamentary members named PNND. PNND Japan, the Japanese section of this network, currently has fifty-seven members and is represented by House of Representatives member Taro Kono (LDP), with Tetsuo Inami (House of Representatives member from the DPJ) serving as secretary-general. The Working Team to Promote a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone was established on March 21, 2012 at the Eighth General Assembly of PNND Japan.

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