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Hiroshima for Global Peace

[Column 3] The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the Future of Nuclear Disarmament

 [Column 3] The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the Future of Nuclear Disarmament

Yasuyoshi Komizo

1. Background on the Adoption of TPNW

The cold war ended more than 25 years ago, but we are still struggling with causes of conflict. While globalization proceeds, the sense of belonging to the same human family remains yet to be developed, and economic/social imbalance keeps expanding. Thus divisions, distrust, and conflicts among people remain the unfortunate reality. Furthermore, recent rise of intolerance and protectionism add risks of turning conflicts into armed confrontation. Nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons still exist in such a volatile world. Nuclear weapons are claimed to be weapons of deterrence, but they may be actually used as a result of accidents and/or miscalculations. The concept of nuclear deterrence is also contagious. It invites the danger of nuclear proliferation, as in the case of North Korea. The international community has begun to realize that the existence of nuclear weapons itself constitutes a security risk of the world. Former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry has stated that “the risk of nuclear catastrophe is greater today than during the Cold War.”1

Despite strong opposition by major powers, the UN Conference adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in July 2017. This happened under the background of heightened international awareness of the inhumanity of nuclear weapons and risks of their actual use, which is widely spreading among civil society groups and non- nuclear weapons states.

Reflecting the basis of such awareness, the Preamble to the TPNW clearly notes the testimonies and earnest appeals for the nuclear abolition by the hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The collective turning point for this reawakening to the horrors of nuclear weapons came with the three “International Conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons” held in 2013 and 2014. Participants in these Conferences came to realize that there had been numerous nuclear accidents and repeated cases placing nations on the verge of nuclear war. With such alarming knowledge, they listened to the testimony of the Hibakusha. This combination awakened the participants of the risks that anyone can become a victim of nuclear catastrophes, and it brought about a strong sense of ownership among large numbers of non-nuclear weapon states in nuclear disarmament negotiations.

2. The Nature of TPNW

Article 1 of the TPNW prohibits nuclear weapons, both comprehensively and indiscriminately. Other aspects of the TPNW should also be noted: The Preamble states to the effect that the TPNW reaffirms and builds upon relevant existing international laws, reaffirms the role of the NPT as the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, and recognizes that a legally binding prohibition constitutes an important contribution towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. The last point is particularly important, since currently nuclear- weapon States (NWS) and nuclear umbrella states (hereinafter referred to collectively as “nuclear dependent states”) oppose the treaty. In order for the prohibition to contribute effectively towards the elimination of nuclear weapons, the TPNW encourages all states, including nuclear dependent states, to join the TPNW (Article 12); it also incorporates measures to enable wider participation of states.

For example, while a “verification” clause is indispensable for nuclear disarmament treaties, reliable verification clauses cannot be drafted without participation of the NWS. In order to cope with this difficulty in drafting a verification clause, the TPNW adopted a type of framework-agreement approach, in line with recommendations made by Mayors for Peace (A/CONF.229/2017/NGO/WG.15). More specifically, Article 4 (on the total elimination of nuclear weapons) provides only a general outline in regard to the related verification measures, while Article 8 (Meeting of States Parties) includes in its mandate the consideration of specific measures of disarmament verification. States including nuclear dependent states that are not yet parties to the TPNW can participate in the deliberation of these meetings as observers.

3. Path towards Nuclear Disarmament

The TPNW has been adopted. Yet nuclear-dependent states oppose the treaty, arguing that it does not address security concerns. Instead, they propose a “step-by-step” approach as the only realistic measure. The problem is that there has not been any tangible progress in recent years. On the other hand, the risk of the nuclear weapons use as well as their humanitarian consequences have become much more widely recognized in the international community, and the very existence of nuclear weapons has become a serious security concern. The Nobel Peace Prize awarded last year to ICAN is clearly a reflection of such a trend.

The path we need to take is clear. Both supporters and opponents of the TPNW are under the NPT’s Article VI obligation to undertake to pursue nuclear disarmament negotiations in good faith. An immediate step should be for both camps, despite their differences, to come together and engage in dialogue focused on identifying and implementing practical nuclear disarmament measures. Through such efforts, further steps towards a nuclear- weapons-free world will become clearer.

In order to overcome the notion of “nuclear deterrence”, intensive efforts are needed worldwide, especially among nuclear-weapon States, to turn mutual distrust into mutual understanding. Even the difficult issues of Ukraine and North Korea can be made specific test cases for a fundamental shift from “confrontational security” to “cooperative security.” Nuclear deterrence does not at all contribute to―and in many ways detracts from―the settlement of contemporary issues such as terrorism and refugees that originate from mutual distrust and confrontation. Global cooperation beyond these differences is indispensable to cope with climate change and other global security challenges. We sincerely expect the political leadership in all countries to support progress in achieving a nuclear-weapons- free world. We hope they will learn and follow the decisive leadership precedents of advancing nuclear disarmament at a peak of international tension, such as the cases between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, and between Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan. Mayors for Peace will not spare any efforts, together with a wide range of civil society partners, to promote mutual understanding and cooperation in the global community, transcending differences in national boundaries, religions and cultures.

Mr. Yasuyoshi Komizo

Chairperson, Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation

[1] William J.Perry, “The Risk of Nuclear Catastrophe Is Greater Today Than During the Cold War,” Huffington Post,