The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is scheduled to take effect on January 22, 2021, after achieving the ratification of 50 countries and territories on October 24, 2020, which was required for the Treaty to enter into force. It took about three and a half years after the TPNW was adopted at the UN conference with the approval of 122 countries and territories on July 7, 2017. It is remarkable that the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has made a significant contribution to the accomplishment of the TPNW through its various campaigns. For this contribution, the ICAN was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2017. ICAN was established as a coalition of global non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – led by many female leaders – in 2007. Mrs. Setsuko Thurlow, who is 89 years old and a survivor of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima in August 1945, has been devoting herself to the ICAN since its launch in 2007, and continues to be the leading figure together with Ms. Beatrice Fihn who has been the Executive Director of the ICAN since 2014.
With regard to the TPNW, the five nuclear powers and several other countries with nuclear weapons have not joined the Treaty. Japan and South Korea, both of which are non-nuclear countries but are under the US nuclear umbrella, have not joined the TPNW. The Japanese government has consistently been expressing the following view. If Japan takes part in the TPNW, Japan will lose the justification of the deterrent power of nuclear weapons of the US to protect Japan as its ally, and the Japanese nation will be thrown into danger. Therefore, Japan will continue to make efforts for disarmament within the framework of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and serve as a mediator between the nuclear and non-nuclear countries as the only country in the world which has experienced the sufferings of atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
When I served as Minister of the Environment for one year during 2018-2019, I received a visit from Mrs. Setsuko Thurlow and Mr. Akira Kawasaki, a member of the International Steering Group of the ICAN, and I made efforts to help them get an appointment to meet other members of the Abe Cabinet. As I mentioned above, since Japan is the only country in the world which has suffered atomic bombings in the past, I believe that Japan should join the TPNW in principle.