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Nuke ban treaty talks begin, Japan not taking part

Negotiations on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons began Monday
at U.N. headquarters with Japan, the world's only atom-bombed
country, announcing it would abstain from the talks alongside the
five major nuclear powers.

"Regrettably, given the present circumstances, we must say that
it would be difficult for Japan to participate in this conference in
a constructive manner and in good faith," Japan's disarmament
ambassador Nobushige Takamizawa said during the opening segment of
the conference.

"What is essential is to pursue practical and effective measures
with the engagement of both nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states,"
he explained in the General Assembly hall. "We will continue to
pursue realistic and effective disarmament measures and will work to
create a security environment conducive to the elimination of nuclear
weapons."

Japan has said it aspires to a nuclear-weapon-free world but has
been vague about whether it will join the U.N. talks, reflecting its
reliance on the U.S. nuclear deterrent for protection.

The first round of negotiations will run through Friday, with
the second taking place from June 15 through July 7. Both sessions
will be held at U.N. headquarters.

Toshiki Fujimori, assistant secretary general of Nihon Hidankyo,
an organization for atomic bomb victims, also addressed the delegates
as a Hiroshima hibakusha. He was little more than a year old when the
bomb exploded over his city on Aug. 6, 1945.

"The treaty you will be negotiating today must reflect this call
of hibakusha in express terms so that the world makes remarkable
progress towards nuclear weapons abolition," he said.

While he and other atomic bomb survivors back the U.N. efforts
to negotiate a landmark treaty, he expressed disappointment with
Tokyo for not endorsing the move.

"As a hibakusha, and as a Japanese person, I am here today
heartbroken, yet I am not discouraged," he said. He pointed to the
positive work being undertaken by a majority of countries,
international organizations and civil society who are pressing for
the treaty despite opposition.

A total of 113 counties supported the start of negotiating a
nuclear weapons ban treaty at the U.N. General Assembly in December.
Nongovernmental organizations estimated on Monday that 115 nations
were present for the conference.

Austria and other non-nuclear countries that have strongly
pursued the start of negotiations are aiming to draft such a treaty
by July.

Of the five major states possessing nuclear weapons, the United
States, Britain, France and Russia are vehemently opposed to the
treaty. China recently decided not to participate in the talks after
weighing up the possibility of joining them.

It remains to be seen whether the negotiations will lead to any
tangible nuclear disarmament as the new U.S. administration of
President Donald Trump has signaled a review of the goal of a world
without nuclear weapons, which was advocated by the Barack Obama
administration.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley along with
representatives of about 20 other nations spoke against the treaty
outside the General Assembly hall in an unusual move timed to
coincide with the start of the conference.
"As a mom, as a daughter, there is nothing I want more for my
family than a world with no nuclear weapons. But we have to be
realistic," she said.

"Is there anyone that believes that North Korea would agree to a
ban on nuclear weapons? So what you would see is the General Assembly
would go through, in good faith trying to do something, but North
Korea would be the one cheering and all of us and the people we
represent would be the ones at risk," she said.

Britain and France also delivered brief remarks echoing Haley's
sentiment and endorsing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as the
way forward.

"My country, the United Kingdom, is completely committed to the
long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons and we recognize
that we have obligations, as every country does, under the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty," British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told
reporters.

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons Executive
Director Beatrice Fihn criticized the move by the United States and
others in a press statement issued before the talks began.

"Today's last-minute protest by Ambassador Haley and others
standing with the American president demonstrates how worried they
are about the real impact of the nuclear ban treaty," she said. "It
is an unhelpful distraction from the important work of banning
nuclear weapons."

During a press conference, Fihn also took aim at North Korea for
taking the "same position" as the United States.

"We regret that any state boycotts these negotiations and think
they should be a part of it," she explained. "I think that's why it's
very important to take urgent action to prohibit nuclear weapons."
(March 27)


Toshiki Fujimori, assistant secretary general of Nihon Hidankyo, an organization for atomic bomb victims, speaks as a Hiroshima hibakusha during negotiations on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons at U.N. headquarters in New York on March 27, 2017. "As a hibakusha, and as a Japanese person, I am here today heartbroken, yet I am not discouraged," Fujimori said, as Japan, the world's only atom-bombed country, announced it would abstain from the talks.