Interviews with top leaders: Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui

How will you appeal for nuclear abolition at the NPT PrepCom?

by Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writer

The Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), made up of 12 non-nuclear weapon states, held a meeting of foreign ministers on April 11 and 12 in Hiroshima and adopted the Hiroshima Declaration, which refers to the humanitarian consequences of nuclear arms and resolves to abolish these weapons. On April 28, the third session of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the 2015 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) will start. The Chugoku Shimbun interviewed Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui, 61, who will attend the meeting, and asked him about the appeal he will make to the representatives of member states, based on the discussions of the NPDI.

What is your assessment of the NPDI ministerial meeting held in the A-bombed city?
I spoke with all the foreign ministers who attended the meeting, and it was apparent that all of them were touched by the actual damage caused by the atomic bombing. The 12 countries have different backgrounds when it comes to national security, and they support different approaches for abolishing nuclear arms. However, I felt it was significant that they gathered in the A-bombed city and shared their firm political commitment to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.

The Hiroshima Declaration made no mention of a nuclear weapons convention. What do you think about this?
I don’t want to diminish the significance of the meeting in an A-bombed city by taking a negative view. Rather, we must use the outcome of the meeting to step forward. In order to bring about a nuclear weapons convention, it’s imperative that the nuclear weapon states be involved. I would like to request their active involvement by saying, “The NPDI members have overcome their differences and share the ultimate goal. I ask that the nuclear weapon states not avoid discussion on this matter.” I want to take this opportunity to attend the PrepCom to elicit their positive response.

You will give a speech at the PrepCom’s NGO session on April 29. What message would you like to deliver?
I would like to emphasize three points. First, the actual damage caused by the A-bomb. I plan to present scientific data about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima to show that the radiation released by the bomb was many dozens of times as high as a lethal dose and that many people died as a result. I want to ask the participants if they really think such inhumane weapons are necessary.

Second, I will call for the realization of a nuclear weapons convention at the earliest possible date. The survivors of the atomic bombings have sought nuclear disarmament for many years. I would like the member states to focus on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons to promote active discussions on nuclear disarmament at the national government level. Third, I will emphasize the importance of promoting joint efforts among civil society and NGOs across generations and national borders.

This will be the first time that high school students from Hiroshima and Fukuyama will attend the PrepCom. With the A-bomb survivors aging, the number of survivors who can talk about the atomic bombings is rapidly decreasing. I want the young people to learn from attending this international forum so they can take over the efforts of calling for nuclear abolition. At the same time, I am considering inviting a United Nations organization to Hiroshima, if possible next year, the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings, to provide a venue to coordinate peace education for those who will be future policy-makers. Hiroshima must continue to speak out and say that nuclear weapons are an absolute evil.


The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)
The NPT took effect in 1970 and was extended indefinitely in 1995. The treaty permits the possession of nuclear weapons by the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China, while imposing on them the obligation to pursue negotiations for nuclear disarmament. The treaty grants non-nuclear weapon states the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The number of member states is about 190. India, Israel, and Pakistan, which are de facto nuclear weapon states, have not joined the treaty. North Korea declared its withdrawal from the NPT in 2003. An NPT Review Conference is held every five years to assess the implementation of the treaty. The next Review Conference will be held at United Nations Headquarters in New York in 2015, and the third session of the Preparatory Committee will take place from April 28 to May 9 at U.N. Headquarters.

(Originally published on April 22, 2014)