Photo/IllutrationMembers of the U.N. First Committee vote Oct. 27 on a draft resolution submitted by Japan on nuclear weapons. (Ryuichi Kanari)

Japan's weakening voice in its push for nuclear disarmament was evident in a disappointing U.N. vote Oct. 27 on its draft resolution related to nuclear weapons.

The vote at the U.N. First Committee, which handles disarmament and international security issues, saw a draft submitted by Japan obtaining the approval of 144 nations, which is down 23 nations from the 167 countries that gave the resolution the thumbs-up in 2016.

In part because this year's draft contained no reference to the July approval of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, three nuclear-armed states--the United States, Britain and France--voted in favor. Last year, Britain and France abstained from voting.

This year, 27 nations abstained, including 15 that voted in favor of it last year. Those nations included Austria and Brazil, which took leading roles in pushing through the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Four nations again voted against the resolution--China, Russia, North Korea and Syria.

Japan has submitted a resolution with similar wording about the need to eliminate nuclear weapons for 24 consecutive years.

However, this year's resolution made no reference to achieving the elimination of nuclear weapons, but only calls for complete implementation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The 144 nations in favor of this year's resolution was the lowest since 136 in 2002, according to government sources. The U.N. General Assembly will vote on the resolution in December.

As the only nation struck by an atomic bomb, Japan has long called for the elimination of nuclear weapons and had played a leading role in debate on nuclear disarmament.

However, it did not vote for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, in part because of continued provocations by North Korea in developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Tokyo has also fallen in line with the moves being made by the United States under President Donald Trump to strengthen nuclear capabilities.

While the General Assembly vote on the resolution would not be legally binding, it would have symbolic significance in the international community. The decrease in the number of nations voting for Japan's resolution is a reflection of the declining influence of Japan in discussions on nuclear disarmament.

The most criticism was directed at the watered-down wording on nuclear disarmament. Until last year's resolution, there was clear wording about the need to achieve complete elimination of nuclear weapons that would lead to nuclear disarmament.

Such wording was used by non-nuclear states as the basis for calling on the nuclear powers to work toward disarmament.

Wording was also changed in this year's resolution about the devastating humanitarian results arising from any use of nuclear weapons.

(This article was written by Ryuichi Kanari in New York and Ichiro Matsuo in Geneva.)