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Editorial: Public, private sectors should work together for abolition of nuclear weapons

The number of financial institutions prohibiting transactions with companies related to nuclear weapons is slowly on the rise in a global trend that could lead to the abolition of such arms.

According to a survey conducted by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and the Dutch nongovernment organization PAX, 63 financial institutions, mostly in Europe and the United States had completely or partially banned lending to manufacturers of nuclear weapons as of October 2017.

In Japan last year, Resona Holdings, Inc. announced its policy of prohibiting such loans. It was said to be the first instance of a major bank in the country banning all lending to companies involved in manufacturing nuclear arms, although other financial institutions had stopped lending specifically for the making of such weapons.

Those financial institutions, including Resona, were able to take the measure partly because they did not have outstanding lending to those nuclear weapons companies. Many companies with military businesses have the mainstay of their operations in the civilian sector, and halting loans to such firms is not easy for many lenders.

Yet it is meaningful for financial institutions to assume a leadership role and take a tough stance against the production of inhuman weapons. Such a posture indicates a norm that even private corporations should take responsibility toward the abolition of nuclear weapons.

A notable change is happening following the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations in 2017. The number of institutions banning loans to nuclear weapons companies jumped by nine in 2017 from 54 in 2016 and 53 in 2015.

The treaty bans the development and manufacturing of nuclear weapons as well as extending support for such programs. This prohibition is said to have the potential to cover lending from financial institutions. Companies prohibiting lending to nuclear weapons manufacturers may be trying to avert this risk and improve their corporate image before the treaty takes effect.

It is no surprise that an increasing number of financial institutions are following up on the expanding international trend of adopting an investment principle of not extending loans to makers of inhuman weapons.

The Japanese government should not overlook this trend, and push for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

In December last year, a Japan-sponsored resolution seeking the abolition of nuclear weapons was passed by the U.N. General Assembly for the 25th year in a row. The United States, however, abstained because Washington did not like the resolution's emphasis on disarmament obligations, although the country was a co-sponsor of the Japanese resolution in 2017.

Meanwhile, many countries supporting the nuclear weapons ban treaty also abstained because the resolution, like in 2017, lacked reference to the treaty. And the treaty itself has garnered only 19 countries and regions that have ratified the international pact -- far less than the 50 needed for the treaty to take effect.

As the U.S. and Russia beef up their nuclear weapons strategies, threatening a reversal from moves toward nuclear abolition, stemming the flow needs the joint efforts of the public and private sectors.

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