On the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima: Give back a peace that will not crumble

by Noritaka Egusa, Editor-in-Chief

can we forget that flash? suddenly 30,000 in the streets disappeared in the crushed depths of darkness the shrieks of 50,000 died out

(Excerpt from “August 6” in Poems of the Atomic Bomb by Sankichi Toge)

Seventy years has passed since that tragic day which was seared into the minds of all those who were there. It is disconcerting that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, when he spoke at the Peace Memorial Ceremony in Hiroshima, chose not to mention this nation’s commitment to the three non-nuclear principles.

This omission raises questions, since the same reference was included in the speech he made last year. It breeds suspicions that he intentionally avoided the subject, considering that his administration’s security bills are now being discussed in the Upper House. In fact, just recently, on August 5, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani stated that “The wording of the bill doesn’t exclude the possibility of transporting nuclear weapons.”

According to Mr. Nakatani, both nuclear missiles and nuclear warheads are defined as “ammunition.” The bills contain no provisions that prohibit “transporting ammunition.”

I would like Mr. Nakatani to reconsider his remarks. In 1996, the International Court of Justice delivered an advisory opinion that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law. The Japanese government has also recognized that nuclear arms are inhumane weapons.

If Japan helps in transporting these inhumane weapons, even if they are not used, this would clearly constitute a threat to nations at odds with Japan, which could prompt accusations that this country is violating international law.

In line with the three non-nuclear principles, Mr. Nakatani then backpedaled by saying, “Even if a request to transport nuclear arms is made by other nations, Japan would reject that request.” Nevertheless, if transporting such weapons were to take place outside of Japan’s territorial seas and airspace, this would not be regarded as a breach of one of the three non-nuclear principles, namely “Japan shall not permit the introduction of nuclear weapons into Japanese territory.”

As the A-bombed nation, Japan has been roundly criticized for its contradictory stance, since it advocates nuclear abolition despite being defended by the U.S. nuclear umbrella. In addition, if Japan partners with the United States and exercises the right of collective self-defense, this could bring about circumstances in which the A-bombed nation would be engaged in a nuclear war, even in an indirect way.

After the Peace Memorial Ceremony, Mr. Abe mentioned his strong commitment to the three non-nuclear principles in front of representatives from A-bomb survivors’ groups. Regarding the security bills, he said, “These bills are designed to prevent war. I will do my best so that the citizens of Japan will gain a better understanding of the bills.”

With respect to understanding, I would like to ask Japan’s politicians and bureaucrats if they are confident that they have deeply understood the hell which appeared under the mushroom clouds after the atomic bombings. If the answer is “yes,” I contend that the bills should not have the many loopholes that exist in their current versions.

Japan, of course, cannot remain secure without some form of deterrence, considering the willful behavior of its neighbors in the region. However, there are various ways to build peace with these nations, including greater dialogue between our leaders. Why is the prime minister merely pushing ahead for approval of his security bills? The government of the A-bombed nation should make more serious efforts to convey and hand down the experiences of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which have played an important role in preventing the outbreak of nuclear war, to other countries. In addition, why does the Japanese government continue to take such a stubborn stance toward legislating the three non-nuclear principles into law and supporting a nuclear weapons convention?

The poet Sankichi Toge also wrote with emotion:

…for as long as there are human beings, a world of human beings give back peace a peace that will not crumble (Excerpt from “Prelude” in Poems of the Atomic Bomb)

If our generation abandons the philosophy of this nation’s Peace Constitution, future generations may demand that we “give back peace.” I hope such a future will not emerge. The 70th anniversary year of the atomic bombings has brought us to a difficult juncture in the quest to create a world free from nuclear weapons.

(Originally published on August 7, 2015)