Welcome remarks by Mr. Shuji KIRA,
Parliamentary Vice-minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan,
At the Sixth Asian Senior-level Talks on Non-Proliferation (ASTOP-VI)

(photo) Parliamentary Vice-Minister Kira

December 11, 2009

Excellencies and distinguished delegates,

It is a pleasure to have before us so many distinguished delegates who are running the daily scene in non-proliferation matters in their respective countries. I welcome you all to ASTOP-VI.

Since its inception in 2003, Japan has hosted these Talks each year to strengthen the non-proliferation regime in Asia. We have benefitted from constructive dialogue over the years and I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the forthcoming cooperation from all participating countries.

Excellencies and distinguished delegates,

As 2009 draws to a close, I think we can all agree that it has been a robust year for non-proliferation. Besides, with the upcoming NPT Review Conference, I believe that next year, the international momentum for further disarmament and non-proliferation will only continue to rise.

I am also aware of the growing trend among countries to turn to nuclear energy as a means to combat climate change. Pursuing the peaceful use of nuclear energy is indeed a sovereign right stipulated in the NPT. Nevertheless, I think we can also all agree that it is equally important to meet non-proliferation requirements when exerting this right.

ASTOP provides a forum to hold a frank exchange of views to share ideas and matters of concern on non-proliferation which may further provide a basis to jointly consider appropriate non-proliferation measures.

For non-proliferation matters in Asia, North Korea's nuclear and missile development is arguably the biggest issue this year. Currently, there is an ongoing effort to reconvene the Six-Party Talks including the American envoy's visit to North Korea, but the international community must continue to adopt a strong stance towards North Korea to show that it will not tolerate North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons.

On the issue of Iran, to uphold the international non-proliferation regime, the international community must call on Iran to comply with relevant UN Security Council resolutions and to fully cooperate with the IAEA and the international community.

In addition to such regional issues, I understand that matters related to IAEA safeguard measures, the peaceful use of nuclear energy and the PSI will be debated today. I sincerely hope all these matters will be examined in equal depth and vigor.

Mindful of the challenges facing our fellow Asian countries, our efforts to strengthen the non-proliferation regime is imperative in maintaining security and stability in our region.

Japan is absolutely committed to continue playing a leading role in promoting disarmament and non-proliferation. I earnestly wish that your discussions will provide a foundation for all of us to work in tandem towards strengthening the non-proliferation regime.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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