Commentary: Foreign ministers’ “Hiroshima Declaration” avoids mention of “inhumanity” of nuclear arms

by Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writer

The words “inhumane consequences of the use of nuclear weapons” will apparently not be included in the “Hiroshima Declaration” announced at the G7 Hiroshima Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. While these words have long been used by the Japanese government, the fact that they will not appear in the statement is a stark reflection of the growing gap between the nuclear weapon states and the non-nuclear countries.

In December 2015, a resolution on abolishing nuclear arms was adopted by a majority at the U.N. General Assembly. The resolution, led by Japan and adopted for the 22nd year in a row, explicitly stressed the inhumane nature of these weapons.

But the United States, the United Kingdom, and France abstained from voting on last year’s resolution, although they had endorsed the same resolution the year before last. This is because the nuclear powers have become increasingly concerned over the efforts by non-nuclear nations, such as Austria, to pursue a legal ban on nuclear weapons by emphasizing their inhumanity. According to an official from the Japanese foreign ministry, those involved in drafting the Hiroshima Declaration were swayed to remove language related to the inhumanity of nuclear arms because “some countries show an allergic reaction” to this.

Still, it is significant that the foreign ministers of many nations, including the United States, assembled in Hiroshima for the high-level meeting. As Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has pointed out, it is possible that the meeting can play a role in “restarting” stalled efforts to advance nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. In addition, the appeal for “political leaders to visit the A-bombed cities,” which is expected to be incorporated in the Hiroshima Declaration, could help pave the way for a visit to Hiroshima by U.S. President Barack Obama.

However, if the Hiroshima Declaration, transmitted from the A-bombed city, is seen as being overly solicitous toward the nuclear weapon states, its impact on the international community may be muffled. Emphasizing the inhumane nature of nuclear arms must not be avoided.

(Originally published on April 9, 2016)