Kishida faces uphill battle to achieve goal of nuclear disarmament

The Japanese and U.S. governments have issued a joint statement on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), appealing for cooperation toward a world without nuclear weapons.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who was elected in Hiroshima, has said nuclear disarmament is his life’s work. Eager to produce tangible results, the prime minister is facing an uphill battle.

“I am determined to do my utmost to work toward a world without nuclear weapons,” Kishida said at a House of Councillors meeting on Friday.

He mentioned the joint statement at a plenary session of the House of Councillors and stressed the importance of reaching out to states with nuclear weapons, including the United States.

Kishida attaches great importance to the NPT, which includes nuclear powers. He attended the 2015 NPT Review Conference when he was foreign minister and he had hoped to attend the Review Conference that was scheduled for this month before it was postponed due to the pandemic. Kishida has indicated he hopes to attend the rescheduled meeting.

According to the prime minister, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which came into effect one year ago, is “an important treaty that can be seen as a route toward a world without nuclear weapons,” but he is negative about Japan’s participation in the treaty.

“The cooperation of nuclear powers is necessary to change the reality, but not a single one has joined the treaty,” he has said.

Japan depends on the U.S. nuclear umbrella amid the growing threat of North Korea’s nuclear and missile development.

“If nuclear weapons are immediately outlawed, it could undermine the legitimacy of U.S. nuclear deterrence,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said.

There have been calls from Komeito and people in Hiroshima for Japan to participate as an observer at the conference of the parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. However, Kishida said if Japan were to do so, “it would undermine the relationship of trust with the Biden administration, which is the most important thing.”

Since taking office, the prime minister has appointed a special adviser in charge of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation issues for the first time and has proposed holding a meeting on disarmament in Hiroshima with political leaders from various countries.

It is believed that this is partly aimed at eradicating the impression that he is negative toward the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. However, the Foreign Ministry has voiced concern, saying, “It is important to proceed in step with the United States, and not to get too far ahead of ourselves.”