Comment: NPDI “Hiroshima Declaration” is sign that ban on nuclear weapons remains far off

by Kohei Okata, Staff Writer

The “Hiroshima Declaration,” announced on April 12 by the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), does not mention, even once, the subject of outlawing nuclear weapons. The gathering of foreign ministers from the NPDI, the first such meeting held in Hiroshima, failed to bridge the gap between the “dependent nations” that rely on nuclear weapons for national security and the “non-dependent nations” that do not.

Currently, NGOs and even governments in numerous countries are calling for movement toward a ban on nuclear weapons, and these calls are increasing in strength and number. This groundswell is the result of a realization that with the sort of disarmament pursued one piece at a time, as advocated by the nuclear powers and nations like Japan that are under the nuclear umbrella, the goal of a world free of nuclear arms remains nowhere in sight.

The systematic and continuous reduction of all types of nuclear weapons and the reduction of the role of nuclear weapons in national security, included in the NPDI’s Hiroshima Declaration, are certainly important. However, these statements have been made many times in the past and yet there is no sign that the number of nuclear weapons is declining any closer to zero. In the three and a half years since the NPDI was launched, it has only produced a proposal for a common form for the nuclear weapon states to use when reporting on their disarmament activities. It is precisely because of the limits of a so-called “realistic and practical approach” that hopes are being placed on efforts to outlaw nuclear weapons based on their inhumanity.

The NPDI boasts a wide range of participating countries, from countries of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which actively advocates banning nuclear weapons, to NATO countries that are “nuclear-aligned” with the United States. However, a declaration that does not even touch on the issue of outlawing nuclear weapons can only be said to be biased toward the logic of the “dependent nations.” The foreign minister of Mexico, a nation that is leading efforts in the international community to outlaw nuclear arms, was not present at this latest meeting. A veteran diplomat commented that attending may have been uncomfortable for them, and they might be considering withdrawing.

This does not mean that the meeting was a failure. “Once a person knows the suffering of the atomic bomb survivors, they become unable to say that nuclear weapons are necessary. Anyone would understand how undignified possessing them is.” As Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui said during the disarmament symposium on April 11, there is no place more appropriate to discuss a world free of nuclear weapons than the A-bombed city, where the stories of the individual citizens of Hiroshima, stories of lives changed and deaths brought by the atomic bomb, can be told as they are. Even a high-ranking government official from the United States, a nuclear superpower, took this opportunity to visit Hiroshima.

To the foreign ministers who, in the Hiroshima Declaration, call for political leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki: here in Hiroshima, the aging A-bomb survivors and the children who will lead the next generation have entrusted the baton to you. You will be the ones to take it and make the next step.

(Originally published on April 13, 2014)