Japan should take the lead in efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons, says Dr. Hans Blix, former director general of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but Tokyo voted against a U.N. resolution for nuclear disarmament.

Draft resolution L41, “Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations,” was adopted on Oct. 27 by majority support at the plenary session of First Committee of United Nations General Assembly.

A group of countries, including Mexico, Austria and South Africa, came up with the humanitarian initiative, and 50 countries co-sponsored the draft resolution to initiate negotiations in 2017 for a legally binding instrument to ban nuclear weapons.

Although the nuclear weapon states and most U.S. allies--including Japan--voted “no,” 123 of the 193 U.N. members voted in favor of the draft resolution.

Before the resolution was adopted, Blix, a former Swedish foreign minister, expressed his support for the initiative in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun.

He said Japan can play a vital role in abolishing nuclear weapons, particularly in East Asia.

Excerpts of the interview follow.

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I am in favor of this resolution. I know the arguments against, so negotiating such a convention by 2017 will not lead to the target, at least not within a short time. However, what is the alternative that they propose? It is to be “patient, step-by-step.” But that has been tried now for many decades without any results.

Now, if you look at the step-by-step approach, one could say that at the present time, we think there are up to some 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world, and that is an enormous reduction from the number during the peak of the Cold War. However, they have reduced the redundancy.

We know that the effect of this convention on public opinion is there. (It is) not sufficient (enough) to achieve an (immediate) stopping of nuclear weapons, but we do know that it can have an effect in the long run.

We have had a convention on cluster bombs (and) a land mines convention. We must remember the 1925 Geneva Protocol against biological and chemical weapons. It took decades, I think, before the United States ratified it, but they did eventually.

You already have stigmatization (on nuclear weapons). We haven’t had any use for nuclear weapons since 1945, after all. So the taboo is there, but it is a fragile taboo.

I think Mr. Donald Trump has said, “If we have these weapons, why can’t we use them?” So it is a fragile thing. And whatever you can do to strengthen that (taboo), yes, I think that is desirable.

I think the United States should not be against this resolution. And Japan is the country that has the greatest awareness of the evil of nuclear weapons, and I think, therefore, it is natural (for Japan) to take a lead in this activity (toward eliminating nuclear weapons).

I am more worried about Asia because you have built-in conflicts that have not erupted, thank God, yet. But the closest thing to an eruption that we see is North Korea.

We know that when the North Koreans send a missile across the airspace of Japan, there begins to be voices in Japan in favor of nuclear weapons. Technically, the Japanese can acquire nuclear weapons in no time at all, but the political, strategic atmosphere in the Far East will be drastically changed.

I think one of the most urgent and one of the most difficult negotiation problems you have today is: How can one achieve a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula?