Forming ‘FMCT Friends’ Aims to Nudge China Toward Moratorium on Making New Fissile Material

Courtesy of the Foreign Ministry
Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa chairs the U.N. Security Council ministerial meeting on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in New York on Monday.

NEW YORK — Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa aimed to create an encircling net around China as part of Japan’s efforts to increase momentum for nuclear disarmament when she took the initiative in the creation of a group of nations that support the start of negotiations for the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty at a U.N. meeting on Monday.

Kamikawa announced the establishment of the group called “FMCT Friends” when she chaired the U.N. Security Council ministerial meeting on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Including Japan, 12 countries decided to join the group.

“It is significant that the United Kingdom, the United States and France will join [the FMCT Friends] in promoting realistic and practical efforts,” Kamikawa said to reporters following the meeting. She added that the group will be used as a driving force for the realization of a world free from nuclear weapons.

The United States proposed the FMCT in 1993, for which Japan has expressed its support. However, negotiations have not started countries have different opinions over issues such as which substances should be defined as such raw materials of nuclear weapons, which would be prohibited by the treaty.

The government therefore has shifted its focus to a moratorium declared by countries to freeze the production of raw materials until the treaty is concluded. In response to calls from Japan and other nonnuclear states, four major nuclear-armed ones — France, the United States, the United Kingdom and even Russia — have so far made such declarations. However, nuclear-armed China has not made such a move.

Russia has continued to make nuclear threats against Ukraine in connection with its aggression in that country. Even so, Russia “has not increased the amount of raw materials [even] while modernizing its nuclear arsenal,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said. “China is the only country that has made clear moves to increase its amount of raw materials.”

The government aims to use the FMCT Friends as a means for building momentum for nuclear disarmament, and is thus urging China to declare a moratorium.

“Of course, it would be best for countries to conclude the FMCT, but [creating the group] is a realistic approach and a significant step forward for now,” said a senior government official.