Japan pledges to launch new dialogue on nuclear material ban treaty

by Mar 19, 2024Featured Article, News

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa pledged Monday to launch a new dialogue framework to start negotiations for a multinational treaty banning the production of nuclear materials that have the potential to be used for weapons.

With Japan holding the U.N. Security Council’s monthly chair for March, Kamikawa said at an open debate session in New York that the “Friends” meeting with like-minded countries is aiming to “enhance political attention” to the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.

“The international community has become even more divided over how to advance nuclear disarmament. Nevertheless, we must steadily advance realistic and practical efforts toward a world without nuclear weapons,” Kamikawa said.

The move comes amid China’s military buildup with its nuclear stockpile increasing, while fears linger that Russia might use such arms in its war with Ukraine and North Korea may conduct its seventh nuclear test, the first since September 2017.

Kamikawa said the Japan-led initiative is a “new step” to materialize Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s “Hiroshima Action Plan,” first outlined in his speech to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’s review conference at the United Nations in August 2022.

Kishida reiterated his promise to realize a “world without nuclear weapons,” when he hosted a Group of Seven summit in May 2023 in his home constituency of Hiroshima, which was devastated by a U.S. atomic bomb in August 1945, the first time such a weapon had been used in war.

The FMCT, proposed by then U.S. President Bill Clinton at a U.N. General Assembly in 1993, was designed to prohibit the further production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons, including high-enriched uranium and plutonium.

But the treaty has not been finalized as the countries involved have been at odds over whether existing nuclear substances should be subjected to the restrictions.

Nuclear powers such as the United States, Britain and France, as well as non-nuclear states including Germany, Italy, Australia, the Netherlands, the Philippines and Brazil, are willing to join the FMCT Friends talks, according to a Japanese government source.

During the session themed on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, Kamikawa said a “rapid buildup of nuclear capabilities by certain countries could spark a nuclear arms race,” apparently with Beijing in mind.

Kamikawa condemned Russia’s nuclear threats in its war against Ukraine as “absolutely unacceptable.” She also criticized Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs for endangering the peace and stability of the region and the international community.

Meanwhile, Kamikawa emphasized the importance of the peaceful use of outer space, while expressing concerns over the possible negative impact of artificial intelligence and other state-of-the-art technologies on nuclear disarmament.