Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Technology

June 1, 2012

1. The concepts of disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation

(1) Basic Outline

The term 'disarmament', in general, refers to the reduction, curtailment, or abolition of a variety of armaments and weaponry through international agreement. The term 'arms control' emerged during the Cold War to refer to the regulation, inspection, verification, and building of confidence with regard to weapons and armaments, as well as the restriction of movements of conventional weapons. Arms control was born out of nuclear arms control negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1970s, and has mainly been used as a concept for building efforts to control nuclear arms between nuclear superpowers.

In contrast, 'non-proliferation' refers to the prevention and control of the spread of weaponry, especially weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, as well as their means of delivery (e.g. missiles). In addition, the term also covers the prevention and control of the spread of materials and technologies related to weaponry. Following the end of the Cold War, the proliferation concern of states or terrorists developing or attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction and related materials and technology has heightened. To counter proliferation, the international community has implemented export controls and Security Council resolutions, and strengthened efforts such as the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).

(2) Why has Japan promoted disarmament and non-proliferation?

In many regions of the world, religious and tribal conflicts, territorial disputes, and other problems carry the possibility of escalating into armed conflict. Nearly all countries recognize the necessity of armaments for ensuring their security.

Even if armaments are required to ensure a country's security, through mutual cooperation and coordination to reach a suitable, and ideally, reduced level of armament, every state benefits with respect to the following points.

First, arms races and the proliferation of weapons cannot but threaten the maintenance of international peace and security. Even if no country intends to threaten another militarily, the limitless growth of weapons and arms induces mistrust and can induce unnecessary armed conflict.

Second, from an economic standpoint, massive military expenditures place pressure on government finances. Therefore, one of the goals of disarmament and non-proliferation is to restrain military spending so that resources can be better allocated in national budgets towards economic development and social welfare.

2. Japan's basic position on disarmament and non-proliferation

Japan has traditionally promoted disarmament and non-proliferation based on the following fundamental principles.


Japan's Desire for Peace and its Mission as the Only Country to have Suffered the Devastation Caused by the Use of Atomic Bombs

  • As stipulated in Japan's constitution, Japan aspires to maintain and ensure peace and stability in the world in which it exists.
  • As the only nation that has suffered from atomic bombings, Japan has a duty to make known the horror associated with the use of nuclear weapons while working toward the realization of "a world without nuclear weapons".
  • Japan's experience in leading efforts in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation is a valuable diplomatic asset.

Japan's Security Outlook

  • The large scale concentration of military force continues to intensify in the areas surrounding Japan, and there remain various unclear and uncertain elements such territorial and maritime disputes, as well as the situations in North Korea and the Taiwan Strait.
  • Japan's basic position is to ensure its peace and security through diplomatic efforts to ensure the stability of the surrounding region and the international environment, as well as through the maintenance of its defense capabilities and the Japan-US Security Arrangements.

Humanitarian Approach and Human Security Perspective

  • With improvements in the destructivity and lethality of weapons, the misery of war has grown at an accelerated pace. The humanitarian approach has given increased significance to disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.
  • Even after armed conflicts, weapons such as anti-personnel landmines endanger the safety and livelihoods of people living in the affected areas and thus pose a great threat to "human security."

3. The Current State of Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, and the Efforts of Japan

  • (1) The state of global disarmament and non-proliferation has undergone considerable change since the speech by US President Barack Obama in Prague in April 2009. The Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was held in May 2010 amid fierce confrontation between the nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states. Described as a watershed moment with the future of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime at stake, the conference successfully adopted the Final Document, which included a concrete plan of action. The United States of America and the Russian Federation, which together possess the vast majority of nuclear weapons in the world, signed the New START Treaty to reduce strategic nuclear weapons. This new treaty came into force as of February 2011.

    On the other hand, the international nuclear non-proliferation regime based on the NPT, which marked its 40th anniversary since entering into force, continues to face significant challenges including the slow progress on nuclear disarmament, nuclear issues of North Korea and the Islamic Republic of Iran, the threat of nuclear terrorism, and the necessity to strengthen controls on nuclear materials due to the expanding use of nuclear power.

  • (2) As the only state that has suffered the horrific effects of atomic bombings, Japan has played a leading role in the international community's discussions on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, aimed at the realization of "a world free of nuclear weapons." Japan has been taking concrete action to call upon all nuclear-weapon states to take steps for nuclear disarmament while improving transparency in their armaments.

    At the 2010 NPT Review Conference, Japan took the joint initiative with Australia to present specific proposals that would form the basis for consensus in the Final Document, which made a significant contribution to the success of the conference. Furthermore, the foreign ministers of Japan and Australia co-chaired in September 2010 the Foreign Ministers Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, out of which a new cross-regional group was launched. This group, the NPDI (Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative), aims to steadily implement the action plan included in the Final Document of the NPT Review Conference, and to make substantial contributions toward the steady reduction of nuclear risks.

    In September 2010, Foreign Minister Gemba co-chaired the third Ministerial Meeting of the NPDI and appealed for the need to take an action-oriented approach toward the 2012 first preparatory committee of the 2015 NPT Review Conference. The fourth Ministerial Meeting is scheduled to be held in June 2012. Japan will vigorously advance efforts in cooperation with concerned countries that share the same aspirations.

    Additionally, in October 2011, Japan submitted together with an unprecedented 98 other countries its draft resolution on nuclear disarmament to the United Nations General Assembly, which calls for steady implementation of the outcomes of the 2010 NPT Review Conference. This resolution was adopted with the support of an overwhelming majority.

    Through these various efforts, Japan attaches great importance to steadily taking realistic steps toward "a world without nuclear weapons." As the first step toward this goal, the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the immediate commencement of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT) are tasks of utmost urgency. There is no time to lose for the international community.

  • (3) Also, in the area of weapons of mass destruction other than nuclear weapons, namely biological weapons and chemical weapons, and in the area of conventional arms, such as small arms and light weapons, mines, and cluster munitions, which pose an urgent challenge in various fields including humanitarian affairs and development, Japan is playing a pivotal role in international efforts by contributing to the implementation and universalization of related treaties and international norms, and by supporting local projects.

    Japan is also working to strengthen and improve the efficiency of safeguards by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is at the center of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. At the same time, Japan actively participates in and contributes to the international export controls regimes, which are the frameworks for cooperation in export controls, and the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which is an initiative for preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

    In order for the government to effectively advance diplomacy for disarmament and non-proliferation, the enthusiasm and interest of civil society is absolutely necessary. In particular, Japan has a responsibility for passing across borders and generations the knowledge about the tragic consequences of the use of nuclear weapons. The Government of Japan will cooperate with civil society to strongly promote education on disarmament and non-proliferation, including through the initiative of "Special Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons", which was established in 2010.

Back to Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Technology