This report's purpose is to sum up the course of events in Japanese initiatives aimed at making a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC) a reality, review the current situation, and observe what needs to be done henceforth.
I will chronicle the initiatives, and then describe the NWC debate by examining mainly the arguments put forth in Diet hearings and in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki peace declarations.
"Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC)" here primarily means conventions that totally abolish nuclear weapons, and which are referred to in the Malaysian resolution discussed below, but I also use it in a broad sense including conventions that prescribe partial bans, such as conventions that ban use.
II. History of Drafting NWCs in Civil Society
Japan has a history of NWC proposals, mainly by academics and law practitioners.
The 22nd World Conference against A & H Bombs, held in 1976, released the "Convention on the Prohibition of the Use of Nuclear Weapons (Draft)," which was drafted by seven Japanese having professions such as international legal scholar, including Shigejiro Tabata and Shigeki Miyazaki. In 1978 the Japan Federation of Bar Associations released a "Draft Treaty on the Prohibition of the Use of Nuclear Weapons". In 1993 a lawyer, Yasuhiro Matsui, released an "Outline of a Convention to Abolish Nuclear Weapons" at the World Conference against A & H Bombs.
Unfortunately, these proposals had no effect on Japan's nuclear policy.
III. The Abolition 2000 Campaign and Introduction of the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention
On April 25, 1995 Abolition 2000 was launched as a worldwide network seeking to abolish nuclear weapons. According to its Founding Statement, Abolition 2000 demands that NPT parties "Initiate immediately and conclude negotiations on a nuclear weapons abolition convention that requires the phased elimination of all nuclear weapons within a time-limited framework, with provisions for effective verification and enforcement."
In response, the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention (MNWC) was released on April 7, 1997. In Japan the text was translated into Japanese primarily by Waseda University Professor Kenji Urata, and included in a pamphlet published by the Japan Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms.
In 2007 a revised version of the MNWC was released, and in conjunction with this Securing Our Survival was published. A translation of this book was published in Japan in 2008. Additionally, in 2009 excerpts of the MNWC translation had been included in Japan's only collection of documents on disarmament [H. Fujita and M. Asada, eds., Basic Documents of Disarmament (in Japanese), 3rd. ed., 2009, Yushindo].
IV. Reactions to the Nuclear Weapons Conventions: Hiroshima and Nagasaki Peace Declarations, and Diet Deliberations
Since before the 1995 decision to indefinitely extend the NPT, there had been expressions of concern and opposition about the treaty's indefinite extension from Japan's civil society. At the same time, some people had tried to bring about a convention to abolish nuclear weapons. For example, the 1993 Hiroshima peace declaration stated, "The nuclear powers… should set the goal of total abolition of all nuclear weapons and announce to the world a target date of no later than the year 2000" while the Nagasaki peace declaration of that same year stated, "An international agreement totally banning nuclear weapons should be concluded through multilateral negotiations." Additionally, the 1994 Nagasaki peace declaration stated, "Nuclear powers should abandon the idea of nuclear deterrence… and take action as soon as possible for the conclusion of a 'Convention for the Total Banning of Nuclear Weapons,' which would bring about the abolition of nuclear weapons." In response, proposals have been made in Diet deliberations for a convention to totally ban nuclear weapons and a convention to ban the use of nuclear weapons, but there has never been a definite reply from the government.
B. 1996 to 2000
In July 1996 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an advisory opinion on nuclear weapons, and since then, as a follow-up to that opinion, the UN General Assembly has adopted resolutions (the so-called Malaysia Resolution). Until the 2000 NPT RevCon, the Hiroshima peace declarations advocated a treaty for nonuse of nuclear weapons (1996-1998). Nagasaki peace declarations, on the other hand, advocated a convention to abolish nuclear weapons (1996, 1997) and a convention to totally ban nuclear weapons (1998-2000).
Diet deliberations from 1995 to 2000 examined the Japanese government's attitude toward the Malaysia resolutions (abstention), and the Japanese government's thinking on conventions to abolish nuclear weapons (conventions to totally ban nuclear weapons). These waves of questions almost completely died out in 2000, and until the end of the 2005 NPT RevCon, there were hardly any questions relating to nuclear weapons conventions. Replies to these questions from the government are summed up by its written answer [dated at April 23, 2002] to a written question in 2002.
Concerning the creation at the present time of an international agreement for abolishing nuclear weapons, many countries including Nuclear Weapon States do not concur, and the government's view is that seeking the preparation of such an international agreement right now would aggravate the confrontation between nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states, with the possible consequence being instead a delay in nuclear disarmament. In the government's view, it is important to make steady step-by-step progress toward realistic and concrete measures for nuclear disarmament to quickly bring about a world without nuclear weapons, such as quickly bringing the CTBT into force, and quickly starting negotiations on the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. The government intents to further enhance its diplomatic efforts for these purposes.
There were some noteworthy items in Diet discussions of this time period.
First, many of the questioners understood the Malaysia resolutions and the NWCs as proposals for abolishing nuclear weapons with time limits. The government also understood the Malaysia resolutions as advocating a so-called comprehensive approach. The government holds fast to a step-by-step approach, and is therefore dismissive of the proposals for the Malaysia resolution and NWCs.
Second, experts summoned by the Diet as unsworn witnesses stated their opinions on the MNWC [in Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense, House of Councillors, June 11, 1988]. They were former diplomatic official Mitsuro Donowaki (counselor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and chair of the UN Group of Governmental Experts on) and former UN Assistant Secretary-General Yasushi Akashi (director of the Hiroshima Peace Institute at Hiroshima City University). Donowaki pointed out the small possibility of meeting the 15-year time limit for abolishing nuclear weapons as provided by the MNWC. Akashi asserted that putting a time limit on nuclear weapons abolition is unrealistic, and then went on to argue that the abolition plan advanced by the Henry L. Stimson Center is more detailed and more firmly grounded in reality. He has especially taken note of its flexibility. Both experts regard the MNWC as a proposal for a comprehensive approach.
Third, the government nevertheless has responded that "if we reach the stage at which nuclear weapons are abolished, we will naturally have also reached the stage at which we will create a convention that bans nuclear weapons."
As this shows, discussions in the Diet over this time period have been consistently concerned with which approach is appropriate - the comprehensive approach or the step-by-step approach, and discussion has not yet arrived at the stage where there is debate on the conditions for realizing a nuclear weapons-free world, which is what the MNWC advocates.
It is worth noting that during this period Yukio Hatoyama, who was previously the president of Democratic Party of Japan and is now the prime minister, took the position that the government should call for conclusion of a convention banning nuclear weapons [in plenary sitting of the House of Representatives, December 12, 1996].
C. 2001 and Beyond
After 9/11, NWC advocacy was for a time subdued. The 2002 peace declarations by Hiroshima and Nagasaki make no mention of NWCs. Nagasaki's peace declarations in particular say nothing at all about NWCs from 2002 to 2008. By contrast, in Hiroshima's peace declarations from 2003 to the present we see mentions of conventions to ban nuclear weapons and a position that reflects the 2020 Vision of Mayors for Peace (such as the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol).
As stated above, during the years from 2001 to 2005 there were hardly any NWC-related questions in Diet proceedings. Since 2006 there have again been questions on conventions to totally ban nuclear weapons and conventions to ban the use of nuclear weapons. Basically the government's response has again been to advocate the step-by-step approach.
There are two things to note carefully in these Diet deliberations. First, questioners do not necessarily present arguments based on the comprehensive approach, and second, the government's response has, while basically calling for a gradual approach, left some room in its stance for more consideration.
V. The Present Situation
As stated above, the Japanese translation of Securing Our Survival was published in July 2008. And attention is again focused on NWCs thanks to the five-point proposal for nuclear disarmament by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon October 2008.
To start with, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki peace declarations of 2009 both referred to a "nuclear weapons convention." In particular, the "4th Nagasaki Global Citizens Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons" was held in February 2010 in Nagasaki. Its Workshop Ⅱ was on the theme "Towards a Nuclear Weapons Convention," making it 10 years since the first assembly in 2000 that it took up the subject of a nuclear weapons convention. The Nagasaki Appeal calls for establishing a process for a nuclear weapons convention.
Papers written by experts are also now present the MNWC.
Further, in September 2008 Japan and Australia launched an initiative called the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND). Founded in response to this was the ICNND Japan NGO Network, which carried on energetic dialog with the ICNND. As a result, the ICNND report released in December 2009 asked that consideration of the MNWC be started quickly ("Work should commence now on further refining and developing the concepts in the model Nuclear Weapons Convention now in circulation...", ICNND Report, recommendation 73). The report also presented a road map for eliminating nuclear weapons. The very fact that this road map was presented could be seen as one response to the problem posed by the MNWC.
The ICNND report imposes no time limit on the second of the two stages in achieving nuclear weapons abolition, and in this respect opinions are divided on the estimation of the report. But at the same time, the report also said that discussion is needed on how to refine the MNWC. Japan's new government, which was launched in the autumn of 2009, praises the report. It is still unclear whether the Japanese government will adopt this ICNND road map and move forward with the job of refining the MNWC. If it does, it will be possible to have a more in-depth discussion on the road map to nuclear weapons abolition in Japan because civil society will ask new questions from the MNWC's stance about the ICNND's approach. And if this discussion comes to be carried on among governments and at a higher level, it will move closer to signifying preparatory work for achieving a nuclear weapons convention.
VI. Future Challenges
1.It is necessary to confirm the basic principles embodied in NWCs. Generally the making of a convention for many parties is preceded by confirmation of its general principles in the United Nations. For example, for the International Covenants on Human Rights, there was a resolution on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the UN General Assembly, while for the Space Treaty it was the Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space. The principles of the NPT were confirmed by UN General Assembly Resolution 2028. For an NWC as well, the basic principles must be debated, and guidelines set forth for future negotiations.
2.One of those basic principles must be the illegality of the use and threat of nuclear weapons. Reducing nuclear weapons without negating the doctrine of nuclear deterrence, which forms an integral duality with the legality of the use of nuclear weapons, could delay the abolition of nuclear weapons because nuclear deterrence necessitates maintaining a reliable nuclear capability.
3.There must be discussion on ways of reaffirming the illegality of the use and threat of nuclear weapons. The illegality of the use and threat of nuclear weapons should not established for the first time when an NWC is enacted in the future; there must be a reaffirmation that they are already illegal now. Unfortunately, the 1996 ICJ advisory opinion did not conclude that they are illegal in all cases. The aim in requiring reaffirmation of the illegality of the use and threat of nuclear weapons in the process of making the NWC happen is to establish, through seeking the illegality of nuclear weapons, a social norm that denies their legitimacy. All means should be considered from this perspective. There are many conceivable forms, such as a convention banning the use of nuclear weapons, UN General Assembly resolutions, Security Council resolutions, another ICJ advisory opinion, revision of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, a resolution by the NPT RevCon, or a declaration of "public conscience." We need debate that discerns the strong and weak points of each.