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Nuke ban treaty talks unrealistic without nuke "haves": minister

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, explaining Tokyo's decision not
to take part in U.N. talks on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons,
said Tuesday that such talks are unrealistic without the
participation of major nuclear weapon states amid the growing nuclear
threat posed by North Korea.

But the decision by the government triggered criticism and
disappointment from survivors of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombings of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who saw the first-ever U.N. talks on the
treaty to abolish nuclear weapons as a step toward pursuing a
nuclear-weapon-free world.

Japan has said it aspires to a world free of nuclear weapons,
but relies on the U.S. nuclear deterrent for its protection.

Earlier Monday in the opening segment of the conference, Japan's
disarmament ambassador Nobushige Takamizawa delivered to the audience
a statement on Tokyo's stance on the path toward achieving a world
free of the nuclear weapons but announced its decision not to join
the ban treaty negotiations.

Takamizawa made the appearance at the meeting at U.N.
headquarters in New York as five major states possessing nuclear
weapons -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States --
skipped the event.

In Tokyo, Kishida told reporters the negotiations that began in
New York overnight "not only do not realistically help create a world
without nuclear weapons but could also further deepen the rift
between nuclear and non-nuclear-weapon states and cause an adverse
effect."

Kishida stressed the absence of the five major states possessing
nuclear weapons for the negotiations at U.N. headquarters, and
questioned whether the talks to abolish nuclear weapons can be
conducted in a "practical and effective" manner.

"Japan will continue to make efforts to realize a world without
nuclear weapons by firmly contributing to discussions that proceed
with the cooperation between nuclear and non-nuclear-weapon states,"
said Kishida.

The minister -- a lawmaker elected from Hiroshima -- had shown
in October enthusiasm to "proactively" join the negotiations to
convey Japan's thinking as the only country attacked with nuclear
bombs, while leaving the final decision to the government as a whole.

Kishida also cited the "severe security" situation in deciding
Japan's stance. Japanese officials said even if such a ban treaty is
agreed, it would not lead to North Korea's abandonment of its
aggressive pursuit of nuclear and missile development programs.

Japan also apparently placed priority on strengthening its
security alliance with the United States under President Donald
Trump, which has vehemently opposed joining the talks on the nuke ban
treaty, political analysts said.

In mid-February, Trump reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to use
nuclear weapons to deter attacks against its allies, including Japan,
a move welcomed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe amid the North
Korean threat and China's rising assertiveness at sea.

But Hiroshi Harada, 77-year-old former head of the Hiroshima
Peace Memorial Museum in the western Japan city and an atomic bomb
survivor, questioned why Japan would hesitate to discuss the matter
due to U.S. pressure.

"It goes against the feelings of the atomic bomb survivors, and
I feel empty," Harada said.

Shigemitsu Tanaka, a 76-year-old member of the Nagasaki Atomic
Bomb Survivors Council, also said he was "disappointed."

At the same time, Tanaka said, "The trend of the international
community to move toward abolishing nuclear weapons will not change."
"I hope the public will raise their voice and change the government's
policy."

Among local government leaders, Hiroshima Gov. Hidehiko Yuzaki
said he is concerned that the goal of the "abolishment of nuclear
weapons would be pushed away" as the division between nuclear-weapon
states and non-nuclear-weapon states has deepened.

He urged the central government to play a role in pushing
nuclear states toward the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons.

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui also expressed disappointment,
saying he wanted the central government "to show courage" and join
the negotiations.

Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue shared Matsui's view, noting that
the conference was a "good opportunity" for Japan to take the lead in
discussions toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

He called on the central government to join the talks when the
second round of negotiations takes place from June 15 through July 7
at U.N. headquarters. The first round of negotiations, which started
Monday, will run through Friday.

Nongovernmental organizations estimated Monday that 116 nations
were present for the conference. (March 28)