Abe cites N. Korea for failure to back int'l non-nuclear statement

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday that a worsening security environment surrounding Japan, including North Korea's nuclear ambitions, had influenced Tokyo's recent decision not to back an international statement urging that nuclear weapons never be used under any circumstances.

"It was very regrettable," Abe said at a press conference in Hiroshima, referring to the failure to endorse the statement on nuclear weapons' inhumanity supported by 80 countries at a preparatory committee session in April in Geneva for the next Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review meeting.

Antinuclear groups and peace campaigners have been criticizing the government stance, which they believe stems from Japan's reliance on the deterrence offered by U.S. nuclear umbrella.

Abe said Japan "of course" supported the basic idea of the statement, as the only country to have come under nuclear attack. But, "We also face the severe reality where North Korea has been implementing nuclear development," he said.

"We do not have a choice but to deal with the severe environment surrounding our country in terms of safety," said Abe, who earlier in the day attended a ceremony commemorating the 68th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima in the closing days of World War II.

Abe said Japan would keep striving to realize a world without nuclear weapons, noting "We intend to explore the possibility of joining a similar statement in the future in earnest."