Editorial: Anniversary of the A-bombing of Nagasaki “No more war” is founding principle

The phrase “right of collective defense,” which was not to be heard in Hiroshima’s Peace Declaration, was included in the declaration delivered in Nagasaki yesterday.

In Nagasaki, the Peace Declaration is drafted by a committee consisting of atomic bomb survivors, researchers and others, and debate by the committee has a direct influence on the declaration’s content. This difference in the two declarations perhaps reflected a difference in the degree of fervor between Nagasaki’s committee and Hiroshima’s panel, which asks citizens to select survivor experiences to be incorporated into its declaration.

Nagasaki’s declaration called into question the government’s haste and pointed out that the public’s uneasiness and concern had not been dispelled. But it can’t be said that the declaration went a step further and clearly set forth the pros and cons of the government’s position.

While receiving the support of the drafting committee, Mayor Tomihisa Taue had reservations about one part of the declaration to the very end.

The mayor unveiled an outline of the declaration at a press conference on August 1, but even then he hemmed and hawed. “The citizens agree that we must bring about a world without nuclear weapons,” the mayor said. “At the same time, there are differing views on security.”

This involves issues that can’t be addressed in a single stroke: approval or disapproval of the right of collective defense itself, the pros and cons of the authorization of its execution, and the arguments for and against the use of a Cabinet resolution. For this reason, speaking out on the subject is not easy.

This is not just a matter of the mayor’s personal convictions. In view of the role of the declaration, which is intended to take into consideration the wide-ranging sentiments of the citizens of Nagasaki, it is only natural that the mayor found it difficult to decide what to do.

And in a state of affairs that is difficult to mention, even the A-bomb survivors do not all share the same view.

In a nationwide survey of atomic bomb survivors conducted by the Kyodo News Service, 54 percent of the respondents said they opposed authorization of the exercise of the right of collective defense. Although the figure was more than twice the number of those who were in favor, it is a slim majority, which some people certainly found strange.

In a separate public opinion poll by the Kyodo News Service, nearly 70 percent of those in their 20s and 30s were opposed to the authorization of the right of collective defense. How must these young people have felt about the responses of the A-bomb survivors?

Should the abolition of nuclear weapons, the right of self-defense and security issues be considered separately? We would like to think that the answer to that question can be found in this part of Nagasaki’s Peace Declaration: “Nagasaki has continued to cry, ‘No more Nagasaki!’ and ‘No more war!’ The oath prescribed in the Japanese Constitution that Japan shall ‘renounce war’ is the founding principle for postwar Japan and Nagasaki.”

As a matter of fact, Hiroshima’s Peace Declaration included similar language: “…our government should accept the full weight of the fact that we have avoided war for 69 years thanks to the noble pacifism of the Japanese Constitution.”

Nagasaki’s difficult decision as to whether or not to refer to the right of collective defense happened to demonstrate to us a shared fundamental principle: “No more war.”

What is the basis of that slogan? We must etch into our minds this quote from Hideo Tsuchiyama, 89, former president of Nagasaki University. Mr. Tsuchiyama, a member of the drafting committee, gave a supportive push to Mayor Taue. “Nagasaki has a duty to speak out on behalf of the many victims of the A-bombing who left this world regretfully and to outline a vision for Japan,” he said.

A generational change is taking place among the atomic bomb survivors. Eventually the day will come when we can no longer fall back on the survivors’ vivid storytelling. It is time to reconsider how to get the message of Hiroshima and Nagasaki out without relying solely on the experiences of the A-bomb survivors.

(Originally published on August 10, 2014)