Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has called nuclear disarmament his life's work.
In a policy speech shortly after assuming office, he said, "As a prime minister hailing from Hiroshima, the site of an atomic bombing, I strive for a world free of nuclear weapons."
We want to take his enthusiasm at face value. But his seriousness on the issue is already in question.
Kishida's attitude and behavior toward the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which went into effect in January, has cast doubt on his commitment. The TPNW is an international treaty banning everything from development and use of nuclear weapons, to the threat of using them. Japan, which relies on the United States' nuclear umbrella, has not become a party to it.
The March 2022 first meeting of state parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is set to allow countries to participate as observers. If Japan, the only country to have experienced wartime atomic bombings, sends a message out to the world, it would improve momentum toward the abolition of nuclear weapons.
But the prime minister's stance on the treaty is not positive. His logic is that a treaty without participation from nuclear powers is ineffective. His view is informed by U.S. opposition to the treaty. But for Kishida to take this approach makes him no different to former prime ministers Shinzo Abe and Yoshihide Suga.
When Kishida was minister of foreign affairs, he proposed establishing an international "Group of Eminent Persons" to promote nuclear disarmament. In addition to figures from Japan, key individuals from nuclear and non-nuclear countries met and exchanged views.
Now Kishida is the Japanese prime minister. Isn't it time he announced a grand vision for nuclear disarmament, and press forward with strategic foreign diplomacy to realize that vision? We want Kishida to hold further debate in the National Security Council and meetings with prominent figures, and present his vision to the world.
The next Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which includes nuclear powers, is set for January 2022. Japan should be a bridge between the NPT and the TPNW.
It was Kishida who worked tirelessly to make then U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Hiroshima happen. President Joe Biden, then vice president, has vowed to carry on Obama's mission of realizing "a world without nuclear weapons."
The Biden administration is drawing up guidelines for a new nuclear strategy; it is reportedly considering limiting nuclear weapons' role to deterrence and retaliation.
Prime Minister Kishida should back President Biden's efforts. Understanding that Japan must as a nuclear-bombed country proceed with its own style of foreign diplomacy needs to be sought.
Can Kishida create a strong international trend toward nuclear disarmament? As a prime minister voted into the Diet from a constituency in nuclear-bombed Hiroshima, his resolve will be called into question.