Japan, New Zealand vow to boost disarmament cooperation

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully agreed Thursday to strengthen cooperation between the two countries in seeking nuclear disarmament in connection with a joint statement on nuclear weapons soon to be issued at a U.N. committee meeting by New Zealand and other countries.

During a telephone conversation, Kishida expressed Japan's appreciation for New Zealand's lead in changing wording in the statement in a way that allows Japan to sign it for the first time, Japanese officials said.

"We intend to work hard with New Zealand so we can get as close to a world without nuclear weapons as possible," Kishida was quoted by the officials as telling McCully. The New Zealand minister said Wellington hopes to tell the world of the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons, according to the officials.

Japan did not sign a similar statement issued at the First Committee of the U.N. General Assembly last year that called attention to the potential humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use and to the need for nuclear weapons not to be used again.

For Japan, which relies on the nuclear deterrence provided by the United States for its protection against potential nuclear attacks, such a statement has been incompatible with its security policy.

But amid criticism from people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the two Japanese cities that suffered U.S. atomic bombings in 1945, the Japanese government said last Friday that it will sign the statement to be issued by the U.N. panel.