Statement Calling for Early Signing and Ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by the Japanese Government
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (the “TPNW”), which marks the first ever instrument that establishes a comprehensive prohibition of nuclear weapons, was adopted by the United Nations (the “UN”) on July 7, 2017 by a vote of 122 countries/regions (nearly two-thirds of all UN Member States) in favor.
Subsequently, with Honduras submitting its ratification on October 24, 2020, the TPNW reached the required 50 States Parties for its entry into force, and is scheduled to take effect in 90 days from October 24, 2020, namely on January 22, 2021.
Comprised of a preamble and 20 articles, the TPNW states in the preamble that the only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons are never used again is their total elimination. The preamble also states that a legally binding prohibition of nuclear weapons constitutes an important contribution toward achieving and maintaining a world free of nuclear weapons, mindful of the suffering of the victims of the use of nuclear weapons (hibakusha) as well as of those affected by the testing of nuclear weapons. On these grounds, the TPNW declares that the States Parties to the treaty are determined to act towards that end.
The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 is the springhead of the voice of Japanese atomic bomb victims calling for “a world free of nuclear weapons.”
On our part, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (the “JFBA”) has published multiple opinions calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons while engaging in various activities such as submitting a draft treaty to the UN, ever since it declared at its first Annual General Meeting held in Hiroshima City on May 12, 1950 that “[it will] aspire to eradicate the calamity of war and … to realize a peaceful world.” In addition, particularly concerning the TPNW, the JFBA has issued the “Statement Calling for Early Implementation of the ‘Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons’” (June 6, 2017) and “Statement Concerning Adoption of the ‘Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons’” (July 10, 2017), expressing its high expectation for the Japanese government to play an active role in the relevant process as the only country ever to suffer damage from atomic bombings.
Yet, as the UN Secretary-General noted on this year’s International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (September 26 of this year) “relationships between states possessing nuclear weapons are characterized by division, distrust and an absence of dialogue. ” Given that the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty―which UN Secretary-General referred to as "an invaluable brake on nuclear war "―expired in August 2019, the situation has reached a critical point where in-depth discussion is needed at the postponed 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (the “NPT”), pertaining to the relation between the NPT and the TPNW.
As of today, around 13,000 nuclear weapons remain, of which 90% is in the possession of the United States and the Russian Federation. In order to progress towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons, honest dialogue between these two countries is indispensable. At least the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the U.S.-Russian nuclear control framework expiring in February 2021, should be extended. Beyond that, the two countries need to have a persevering dialogue, aiming at the elimination as well as the reduction of nuclear weapons.
The tragic experience of the Japanese people with atomic bombs led to the paragraphs renouncing war and precluding the maintenance of forces provided in Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan, and also to the ruling rendered in the Shimoda Case (adjudicated on December 7, 1963, Tokyo District Court), in which the Court held that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unlawful acts under international law. Furthermore, the atomic bomb victims’ own voice calling for “a world free of nuclear weapons” has connected globally with the voice of hibakusha referenced in the TPNW.
The Japanese government has neither signed nor ratified the TPNW, arguing that it would rather play a role as a bridge connecting the nuclear powers to the signatory states. However, now is the time for the Government to change its attitude and take a proactive role to protect the various humanitarian principles enshrined in the TPNW’s preamble. As a first step towards that end, the Japanese government should participate in, as an observer, the meetings of the assembly of States Parties that will be held after the treaty enters into force.
The JFBA actively welcomes the TPNW’s coming into effect, and reiterates its call for the Japanese government to clarify its position to pursue “a world free of nuclear weapons and without war,” both nationally and internationally, and to sign and ratify the TPNW early.
November 6, 2020
President, Japan Federation of Bar Associations