Implications of a nuclear weapons ban treaty for Japan

ILPI Publications > Background Papers

Japan—both a nuclear umbrella state and the only country to have suffered attacks by nuclear weapons—will be facing some very difficult decisions as the process towards a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons moves forward.

By Nobuo Hayashi  and Hirofumi Tosaki 
November 2016

On 27 October 2016, the UN General Assembly’s First Committee voted to commence negotiations in 2017 for the adoption of a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons. This latest development in the movement known as the “Humanitarian Initiative” comes at a time when the divide between the proponents and opponents of a nuclear weapons ban has become increasingly entrenched.

Japan finds itself torn. It is both a state that has relied on a nuclear umbrella for its security in a volatile region, and the only country ever to have suffered nuclear strikes. Japan must consider carefully whether to take part in the negotiations and, if a ban treaty is adopted at the end, whether to sign and ratify it.

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