Japan on Monday threw its support behind a U.N. First Committee statement that discourages the use anywhere of nuclear weapons but stops short of calling for their ban, Kyodo News reported.
Japan's support of the statement is significant because Tokyo three times previously has refused to sign-on to similar committee statements out of concern they conflicted with a national defense policy that relies in part on the U.S. nuclear umbrella.
"It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances," reads the statement by the First Committee, which focuses on security and disarmament matters.
The statement was brought forward by New Zealand and gained the support of an unprecedented 125 nations, approximately 66 percent of the U.N. general membership.
Japan is the only nation to ever come under a nuclear attack. The experience of the 1945 bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has turned Japan into one of the world's biggest proponents of universal denuclearization, yet it wants this goal to happen in a gradual manner. The United States for decades has provided extended deterrence to Japan, which is concerned about the nuclear-weapons programs of its neighbors -- China and North Korea.
New Zealand Ambassador for Disarmament Dell Higgie said "some changes" had been made to the language of the statement "at Japan's request, which has facilitated their involvement."
The 2013 statement does not discuss "outlawing" nuclear arms as a 2012 statement did. This year's statement notes various "approaches and efforts toward nuclear [disarmament]" -- language that allowed governments such as Tokyo to support it as it allows for the phased elimination of nuclear weapons.
Norway and Denmark, which as members of NATO receive nuclear deterrence protection, also supported the statement. It was not backed by any of the world's nuclear powers.
A separate effort is taking place in the First Committee to gain support for a Japanese resolution that for the 20th year calls for the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons.