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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 March 29 - April 4  > Shii: UN talks holds out hope for ban on nuclear weapons
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2017 March 29 - April 4 [PEACE]

Shii: UN talks holds out hope for ban on nuclear weapons

March 29, 2017
Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo on March 27 before the Japanese press at the UN Headquarters expressed his hope that the UN talks on a Nuclear Weapons Convention will bear fruit.

The antinuke UN conference which began on this day in New York City will last for five days until March 31.

Asked about his impressions of the conference, Shii said that he was deeply impressed by the launch of the first-ever international negotiations focusing on a treaty banning nuclear weapons in the post-war era. He added that he found that many UN member states are joining hands on the single issue of reaching an agreement to prohibit nuclear weapons.

Shii referred to the fact that U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley and a group of envoys from U.S. allies were gathered together at the outside of the UN General Assembly Hall to oppose the negotiations.

Shii criticized the pro-nuke envoys’ action as an attack on the UN conference and its effort to create a NWC. He went on to say that such an attack indicates that the U.S. and other nuclear weapons states are gripped by frustration and a sense of crisis stemming from the mounting antinuke international pressure. Shii said that although the U.S. ambassador tried to characterize a NWC as “unrealistic” by attacking the conference, she failed to deny the immense significance of a conclusion of a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

On the same day Shii attended the UN meeting with members of the antinuke parliamentarians’ global network and submitted his written statement to the meeting.

Past related article:
> Shii will join UN conference on NWC [March 17, 2017]

***

Full text of the Shii’s written statement is as follows:

Call for Consensus to be Reached towards an Early Conclusion of a Convention to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons
Kazuo Shii
Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND)
Member of the House of Representatives of Japan
Chair, Japanese Communist Party
March 27, 2017

Madam President,
It is my honor to be given the opportunity to address the representatives of governments and civil society gathering here as a member of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) as well as the head of the Japanese Communist Party.

The Japanese Communist Party (JCP), which marks its 95th founding anniversary this year, is one of the major political parties in Japan—the nation which suffered from the unspeakable catastrophe caused by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The JCP has been fervently and adamantly working together with the general public as well as various NGOs and organizations in Japan to realize the total abolition of nuclear weapons ever since.

Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors), grassroots-based anti-nuclear-weapon movements in Japan, and our party have placed emphasis on the urgent need for a prompt start of negotiations towards creating a convention to prohibit nuclear weapons. We together worked to help achieve this goal at the 2010 and the 2105 Review Conferences of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as well as at the General Assemblies of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties which is an international forum open to all political parties in Asia.

As the Chair of the JCP, I wholeheartedly welcomed the resolution which the UN General Assembly adopted on December 23, 2016, with overwhelming support, to hold the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading towards their Total Elimination.

Representatives of governments and civil society,
What approach is the most feasible and effective to initiate legal measures to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons?

We are presented with two approaches which are supported widely by UN member states.

The first approach is to create “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.” Such an instrument would establish general prohibitions and obligations as well as a political commitment to achieve and maintain a nuclear-weapons-free world. Possible elements of such an instrument could include: 1) prohibitions on the acquisition, possession, stockpiling, deployment, development, testing, and production of nuclear weapons; 2) prohibitions on participating in any use of nuclear weapons or threat of their use; and 3) prohibitions on permitting the presence of nuclear weapons on national territory.

This instrument would be an interim step towards total nuclear disarmament as it would not include measures for their elimination. It would not require the support of the nuclear-weapons states for the commencement of negotiations or for its entry into force.

The second approach is to create “a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention.” This convention would include general obligations and prohibitions on nuclear weapons as well as a phased program for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons within a specified time frame. Thus, this convention would aim to achieve the two key elements of prohibition and elimination.

Though such a convention would be “comprehensive” in this regard, it would be technically difficult to negotiate detailed provisions for the verified elimination of nuclear weapons without the involvement of the states possessing nuclear weapons. It could only be effective with the participation of the states possessing nuclear weapons.

Both of the approaches have the same goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons. This is shown by the fact that many of the nations which support “a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention” also support “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.”

Representatives of governments and civil society,
The Japanese Communist Party strongly supports both approaches.

The JCP believes that it would be most effective for this Conference to reach a consensus towards concluding, as early as possible, “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons”— the first approach.

The main reason we believe this would be most effective is in the approach which the nuclear-weapons states (NWSs) have currently taken. The NWSs in the 2000 NPT Review Conference agreed to “an unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapons states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament.” In the 2010 NPT Review Conference, they also agreed upon the need to “make special efforts to establish the necessary framework to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons.” The nuclear-weapons states, contrary to their supposed commitment to make these “special efforts,” are modernizing and strengthening their nuclear arsenals while postponing taking steps toward the total abolition of nuclear weapons into the indefinite future under the guise of the need for a “step-by-step approach.”

Should we just wait until the NWSs come to their senses? We cannot continue to wait any longer.

Therefore, we, the Japanese Communist Party, make the following request to this Conference.

Conclude a convention to prohibit nuclear weapons as early as possible even if the nuclear-weapons states do not sign on to begin with, while continuing to seek their participation. Reach a consensus towards such an early conclusion of a prohibition convention at this Conference.

While continuing to seek the participation of the NWSs, let us not just wait indefinitely until they change their approach. Let us work together with supporting nations to take a decisive step forward towards achieving an early conclusion of “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.” We believe that this approach is the most realistic and effective as well as the only viable option for taking immediate action under the current political circumstances.

We often hear the argument from the NWSs that creating such a convention would be meaningless because “a treaty banning nuclear weapons will not lead to any further reductions.”

We reject such self-serving cynicism. A conclusion of a convention to prohibit nuclear weapons with the participation of the majority of U.N. member states will, for the first time, codify the illegality of nuclear weapons and will finally, with authority, stigmatize nuclear weapons. As the result, the NWSs will be bound politically and morally, if not legally, by such a convention because the stigmatization of nuclear weapons will lead to the stigmatization of states which possess such weapons. A nuclear weapons prohibition convention would also have the possibility to severely constrain the nuclear weapons strategy due to the measures incorporated in such a convention. This is why the NWSs are united in opposition to the move towards negotiating a convention to prohibit nuclear weapons.

A conclusion of such a convention, together with the world public opinion, could be the breakthrough needed to open the door to the total elimination of nuclear weapons by forcing the NWSs to resort to a defensive stance. To achieve a consensus towards an early conclusion of such a convention at this Conference is of the utmost importance and we strongly call for reaching a consensus.

Representatives of governments and civil society,
It is deeply regrettable that the Japanese government, which represents the only nation that is a wartime victim of atomic bombings, opposes the start of negotiations for a convention to prohibit nuclear weapons, and thus opposes this Conference.

The Japanese government opposed the UN General Assembly Resolution to hold this Conference by arguing, “We should pursue a world free of nuclear weapons according to the Progressive Approach.” However, what the post-WWII history of diplomacy concerning nuclear weapons has shown is that just accumulating partial disarmament measures in “a step-by-step approach” cannot get us to the point of actually achieving a world without nuclear weapons.

The Japanese government also argues that negotiations on such a convention would bring “further divisiveness” between nuclear-weapons states and non-nuclear-weapons states and places emphasis on the importance of “constructive cooperation” between nuclear-weapons states and non-nuclear-weapons states. Under the guise of calling for “cooperation,” the Japanese government in actuality puts itself on the side of the NWSs, simply repeats the argument for the “step-by-step approach” which the NWSs insist on to postpone the total elimination of nuclear weapons, and calls on nations to “cooperate” with the NWSs. We believe that what the government representing the only nation that is a wartime victim of atomic bombings is expected to do is to strongly call on the NWSs to join a nuclear weapons prohibition convention which the majority of UN member states have supported.

We, the Japanese Communist Party, together with Japanese movements working to create a world without nuclear weapons, strongly call on the Japanese government to change its position and join with the majority of nations in the world that support the creation of a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.
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