Japan welcomes U.N. statement on nuclear disarmament

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday welcomed a statement issued at a U.N. committee by 125 countries including Japan and New Zealand that drew attention to the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, calling it an expression of "political will."

"Japan, as the only country that has suffered wartime atomic bombing and that knows best the horror of nuclear weapons, supports" the statement's message that the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons have "deep implications" for human survival and the health of future generations, Kishida told reporters.

Reiterating Tokyo's determination to lead international efforts to realize a world without nuclear weapons, Kishida suggested his readiness to lead a meeting in Hiroshima next April of foreign ministers from Japan and 11 other non-nuclear states seeking disarmament and nonproliferation.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference the same day that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had issued a "strong instruction" to support the statement, adding that the Japanese leader has "the realization a world free of nuclear weapons as a core tenet."

Japan endorsed for the first time a statement issued Monday at the U.N. General Assembly's First, or Disarmament and International Security, Committee. The text, whose drafting was led by New Zealand, says that "it is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances."

Outlining the reason for endorsing the statement, the foreign minister said that "several important modifications" were made to make the statement compatible with Japan's security policy and approach to nuclear disarmament.

"After examining the entire statement, we determined that it is compatible with our realistic and progressive approach to nuclear disarmament and our security policy, and decided to join," he told reporters.

Japan did not endorse a similar joint statement announced at the First Committee last year that called attention to the potential humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and called on countries to intensify efforts to "outlaw" nuclear weapons.

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

But amid criticism from people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the two Japanese cities devastated by U.S. atomic bombings in 1945, Kishida, who is elected to parliament from Hiroshima, led the efforts to reverse course. Tokyo said Oct. 11 that it would add its name to the latest statement.

During telephone talks with New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully on Thursday, Kishida expressed Tokyo's appreciation for Wellington's lead in changing wording in the document to make it acceptable to Tokyo.

As chairman of the foreign ministerial meeting in Hiroshima next April, Kishida is expected to deliver a message stressing the importance of nuclear disarmament.