Editorial: Pursuit of nuclear abolition must be tireless, unwavering

Is Japan determined to take the lead in pursuing the elimination of nuclear weapons? People in other nations, as well as in Japan, have placed their hopes in the government of the A-bombed country, and yet suffered a history of disappointments.

Both the international community and the A-bombed cities want no more disappointments this year. In 2014, the Japanese government’s attitude toward nuclear abolition will draw more attention than in years past.

Last autumn, Japan signed a statement on the humanitarian consequences and non-use of nuclear weapons at the United Nations for the first time. Is this just empty rhetoric, or will Japan take another step in this positive direction?

Demonstrating its resolve through action is paramount. The first test of Japan’s commitment will be the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Non-proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), which is scheduled to take place in Hiroshima in April.

The NPDI was launched in 2010 by Japan and Australia with a view to building a bulwark of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Currently it has a membership of 12 non-nuclear states.

The significance of the meeting in Hiroshima will turn on the action plan for nuclear abolition to be devised by the foreign ministers after speaking with A-bomb survivors.

In an interview with the Chugoku Shimbun, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said, “I hope to deliver a clear message from Hiroshima and contribute to moving toward a world without nuclear weapons.”

The NPDI meeting will also be an opportunity to foretell the success of the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference. We hope that Mr. Kishida, who hails from Hiroshima, will prove determined to play a leading role in the discussions.

We hope, too, that he will help serve as a bridge in realizing U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Hiroshima.

It is clearly true that the will of the nuclear weapon states is essential in order to reduce the arsenals of nuclear arms. Toward this end, it is imperative that the leaders of the nuclear powers--not only the American president--come to a deeper understanding of the disastrous consequences of the atomic bombing. It seems that policymakers of these nations, as well as the would-be nuclear states, are turning a blind eye to the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But whenever the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki question this attitude, the international community responds: What, then, is the attitude of the government of the A-bombed nation?

Last year, the Japanese government resumed negotiations for a nuclear energy deal with India, which possesses nuclear weapons but is a non-signatory to the NPT. If an agreement is reached, Japan will be able to export the technology and materials for nuclear power generation. There is the danger, however, that these nuclear exports could be diverted to military use.

The Abe administration, which has proclaimed the idea of “active pacifism,” is believed to approve the right of collective self-defense. It is feared that the government will amend the Japan’s three principles which limit arms exports, subverting the rules at a single stroke.

At the same time, there is no sign of serious debate over the nuclear umbrella or a significant reduction of the U.S. military bases in Japan.

The government contends that the Japan-U.S. alliance is critical due to instability in the East Asian region. Still, will it continue to keep its distance from the international momentum seeking a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone and a nuclear weapons convention?

If the Japanese government demonstrates support for nuclear abolition only through words, and not through actions, it will lose face with the aging A-bomb survivors and the souls of the A-bomb dead.

This is why the people of Hiroshima are determined to hand down the A-bomb testimonies and continue conveying these experiences to the world.

The Hiroshima Peace Creation Fund, a public interest incorporated foundation, is now seeking “Peace Supporters” from the public. The Hiroshima Peace Media Center, a wing of the Chugoku Shimbun, is planning to provide information in multiple languages on its website. Both of these efforts are designed to strengthen the messages of peace delivered from Hiroshima.

Realizing a world free of nuclear weapons is a hope that must never be abandoned.

(Originally published on January 5, 2014)