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Editorial: Japan's weakened UN draft resolution on nukes erodes trust

This year, the Japanese government again submitted a draft resolution to the United Nations calling for a complete ban on nuclear weapons.

Japan has been submitting draft resolutions calling for a complete abolition of nuclear weapons to the U.N. every year since 1994, and they have been adopted for 23 years in a row. Last year's resolution was supported by 167 parties, or nearly 90 percent of the member nations.

The efforts of Japan as the only country to have been attacked with nuclear weapons in warfare have played a part in other countries' sympathizing with the resolution. However, it is said that some countries that have supported the resolution in the past may turn against it this time.

The reason for the shift is apparently that Japan's latest resolution makes no reference to the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons passed in July, and its phrases calling for nuclear disarmament have on the whole been watered down.

Positive moves toward nuclear disarmament have been seen on an international scale this year. Following the July adoption of the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which was instrumental in the passage of the treaty, was this month named winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Japan has been a leader on foundational principles on the elimination of nuclear weapons. Yet it sidestepped negotiations on the treaty, and has distanced itself from the activities of ICAN. Moreover, its resolution this year tones down its requests to nuclear powers.

The 2016 resolution states that the General Assembly reaffirms "the unequivocal undertaking of the nuclear-weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals." In this year's draft, the text was changed to "the unequivocal undertaking of the nuclear weapon states to fully implement the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons."

Some say the change came because the U.S. opposes the treaty banning nuclear weapons, and Japan, which relies on the U.S. nuclear umbrella, is unable to resist pressure from the United States.

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) limits the states with nuclear weapons to the United States, Britain, France China and Russia, but also requires these countries to engage in nuclear disarmament negotiations.

Dissatisfaction from non-nuclear states that nuclear powers were not fulfilling their obligations under the NPT led to the formation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

If the latest resolution softens its stance on the obligations of nuclear powers without giving an appraisal of the nuclear prohibition treaty led by non-nuclear states, it is going against the principles of nuclear abolition.

The resolution underscores the threat from North Korea. People could be forgiven for thinking that the resolution is being used to respond to North Korea rather than to pursue the elimination of nuclear weapons.

North Korea, China and Russia have opposed adoption of the resolution in recent years, and last year they were joined by Syria. If more countries follow suit, it would be a diplomatic blow for Japan.

By prioritizing security and backtracking on nuclear disarmament, Japan cannot avoid a decline in trust, and that will only damage national interests in the long term.

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