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Japan Takes Lead in Addressing Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation

By: Ahmed Fathi

United Nations: In a pivotal move set to mark its presidency of the Security Council, Japan is gearing up to host a crucial high-level briefing on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation on March 18th. This significant event, to be chaired by Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Yōko Kamikawa, aims to assemble key stakeholders to tackle pressing issues concerning global nuclear security. A notable feature of the briefing will be a briefing delivered by UN Secretary-General António Guterres.


The initiative aligns with Article 26 of the UN Charter, which mandates the Security Council, in collaboration with the Military Staff Committee, to devise plans for regulating armaments, thereby minimizing the diversion of human and economic resources towards militarization. Notably, the Council embraced the ambition of achieving global nuclear disarmament and eliminating weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) as early as January 1947.


Despite initial strides taken by the Security Council, including the adoption of landmark treaties such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996, and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in 2017, progress has been hampered by historical geopolitical tensions, notably during the Cold War era. The dissolution of key committees in 1952 saw the General Assembly assuming a more prominent role in advancing disarmament efforts.


Recent years have seen a resurgence in nuclear risks, with reports indicating extensive modernization of nuclear arsenals worldwide and global military expenditures soaring to a staggering $2.2 trillion in 2023. Heightened tensions were further exacerbated by actions from Russia, including nuclear signaling amidst its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The subsequent breakdown in strategic stability dialogue between the US and Russia, coupled with Russia's withdrawal from the New START Treaty in February 2023, underscored the escalating nuclear threats.


Moreover, concerns persist over the missile capabilities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), as evidenced by belligerent multiple ballistic missiles launches threatening its neighbors in South Korea and Japan, and Iran’s uranium enrichment activities, which continue to stoke global apprehensions.


The Security Council is confronted with multiple challenges and limited options as it seeks to promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation amid escalating tensions among nuclear powers. The reluctance of nuclear-armed states to commit to disarmament poses a significant hurdle. Nonetheless, amidst these challenges, innovative strategies aimed at fostering confidence-building and reducing nuclear threats are deemed imperative.


One potential avenue for the Council is the issuance of a presidential statement or resolution outlining confidence-building measures to mitigate the risk of nuclear conflict. Furthermore, advocating for increased female participation in disarmament decision-making, as recommended by the Secretary-General, could enhance inclusivity and effectiveness in addressing nuclear issues.


While there is general support among Council members for non-proliferation efforts, divisions persist on country-specific issues. Disagreements over Iran's compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) highlight contrasting stances between Western powers and Russia and China. Similarly, divergent views on addressing the DPRK's ballistic missile tests underscore the challenges of consensus-building within the Council.


Moreover, discrepancies in treaty adherence among Council members, particularly concerning the CTBT and TPNW, further complicate efforts towards global disarmament.


Given Japan's unique history as the only country to have suffered nuclear bombing during WWII, it remains steadfast in its commitment to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. In December 2023, Japan spearheaded a resolution in the General Assembly aimed at fostering a collective roadmap towards a world without nuclear weapons. The resolution, endorsed by 148 member states, underscores the shared international interest of realization of a world without nuclear weapons.


As Japan prepares to convene the high-level briefing, the international community awaits further deliberations and the pursuit of a world free of nuclear threats.


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