On the Resolution regarding Negotiations for a Legally Binding Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons
October 31, 2016
On Friday, October 28, 2016 (Japan time), the United Nations General Assembly First Committee made a historical decision (A/C.1/71/L.41) to start treary negotiations next March to prohibit nuclear weapons (Yes 123, No 38, Abstain 16). RECNA supports this historical decision, and briefly summarized below the significance of and challenges toward nuclear disarmament hereafter.
1. The Breakthrough toward Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons
Since the recommendation of the United Nations Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) came out this August, the international community has expected this kind of resolution to be adopted. This decision is a result of the global trends toward prohibiting nuclear weapons in the past few years, as exemplified by the International Conferences on Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons (2013-2014) and the Humanitarian Pledge on nuclear weapons. Voices of non-nuclear weapon states that support starting negotiations for the legal framework for prohibiting nuclear weapons are now clearly the majority in the world. That the treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons will finally be negotiated at the United Nations holds a deep historical significance. RECNA supports this resolution, and will watch carefully where future negotiations go.
2. Deepening Differences and Effectiveness of the Treaty
Clear opposition by nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states that depend on nuclear deterrence casts shadow over future negotiations. Especially, it is reported that the United States sent a strong request to NATO allies just before the vote to oppose the resolution, subjecting them to a considerable amount of pressure. Meanwhile, even among the nuclear-armed countries, China and India abstained from voting, and it is noteworthy that their positions differ slightly. In addition, the Netherlands, a member of NATO, abstained, which implies non-nuclear weapon states that are dependent on nuclear deterrence don’t necessarily share the same views either. Thus there is a need to carefully analyze what impact these deepening differences will have on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation trends hereafter. Because nuclear powers are unlikely to participate in negotiations, there is a risk that the negotiations will lead to an ineffective treaty. From now on, we need to focus on how to overcome these challenges.
3. Possible Options for Japan
Japan abstained at the United Nations OEWG, however cast an opposing vote this time. The Japanese government argued that nuclear disarmament should be pursued collaboratively by nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states alike. However, with this change in vote, it will become more and more difficult for Japan to reconcile its positions as a leader of nuclear disarmament and as a state dependent on nuclear deterrence. For Japan, as the only victim of nuclear bombing, now is the chance to shift from the current national security policy dependent on nuclear deterrence. Japan has been claiming that a step-by-step approach is the most realistic. However, we believe Japan should consider a concrete alternative: to participate in the negotiations for a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons and become a mediator between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states.