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Toward a World Without Nuclear Weapons


At the United Nations, the 13th conference on facilitating the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, Sept. 22, 2023. The essayist, the foreign minister of Japan, will preside over a UN Security Council session on March 18, concentrating on working toward a nuclear-free world by building on the momentum from the G7 Hiroshima Summit in 2023. UN PHOTO

Prospects for a world without nuclear weapons are becoming more severe. Divisions are growing not only between nuclear weapon States and non-nuclear weapon States but also among nuclear weapon States and among non-nuclear weapon States over how to pursue nuclear disarmament as the global security environment becomes less stable — a trend exemplified by Russia’s threats to use nuclear weapons since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The world now stands on the cusp of reversing decades of declines in nuclear stockpiles. We will not stop moving ahead to promote realistic and practical efforts to create a world without nuclear weapons. Japan cannot accept Russia’s threats to break the world’s 78-year record of the nonuse of nuclear weapons.

As to North Korea, we have to continue to send strong messages. Regarding Iran’s nuclear issue, we call on Iran to take constructive measures. We must also keep an eye on the possible impact of emerging technologies.

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As the only country to have ever suffered from atomic bombings during war, Japan has a mission to lead the international community’s efforts toward a world without nuclear weapons. In demonstrating to the world our pledge that the catastrophe caused by nuclear weapons must never be repeated, there is no better place than Hiroshima to show our commitment to peace.

With this in mind Japan hosted the G7 Hiroshima Summit in Hiroshima, where an atomic bomb was dropped for the first time. At the G7 Hiroshima Summit, leaders not only from the G7 but also from Ukraine as well as chair countries of ASEAN, the African Union, the Pacific Islands Forum and the G20 visited Hiroshima to deepen their understanding of the reality of atomic bombings. Their visit sent a strong message that the world desires a world without nuclear weapons.

To take advantage of this momentum for progress in nuclear disarmament, Japan believes that conducting discussions toward a world without nuclear weapons with the participation of nuclear weapon states in the Security Council, which holds the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, is extremely relevant and meaningful.

This time, as the Foreign Minister of Japan, I am set to chair a ministerial briefing of the Security Council on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, on March 18. As this year marks the mid-term year of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons review cycle, we will conduct discussions in the Security Council to increase momentum for achieving a meaningful outcome at the 2026 NPT Review Conference, leading the debate toward the realization of a world without nuclear weapons.

Under the Fumio Kishida Administration, Japan has implemented efforts to maintain and strengthen the NPT regime.

In addition to the G7 Hiroshima Summit, the International Group of Eminent Persons for a World without Nuclear Weapons (IGEP), which was established under Prime Minister Kishida’s initiative, also plays an important role in facilitating discussions to create a concrete path toward global nuclear disarmament.

We plan to further implement the “Hiroshima Action Plan,” announced by Prime Minister Kishida in 2022. It is rooted in five actions: shared recognition of the importance of continuing the record of non-use of nuclear weapons; enhancing transparency; maintaining the decreasing trend of the global nuclear stockpile; securing nuclear non-proliferation and promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy; and encouraging visits to the affected communities by international leaders and others.

During last year’s high-level week of the UN General Assembly, while I participated in the 13th conference on facilitating the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), Prime Minister Kishida hosted a high-level event on the proposed Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT). These two treaties are indispensable to limiting the production and development of nuclear weapons.

It is also important to engage with a range of parties, not only governments. Japan aims to deepen international discussion through the “Japan Chair for a world without nuclear weapons.” In addition, the “UN Youth Leader Fund for a world without nuclear weapons,” to which Japan has contributed $10 million, started. We will create a global youth network that works toward the elimination of nuclear weapons. We must also not forget the perspective of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda in these efforts.

Japan hopes that the Security Council’s briefing session will be an opportunity for UN member states to share concrete ideas and proposals to accelerate the realization of a world without nuclear weapons.

This is an opinion essay.

We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts on a nuke-free world?

Yoko Kamikawa is the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan.

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Toward a World Without Nuclear Weapons
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