Foreign ministers’ meeting in Hiroshima produces important step toward nuclear disarmament

by Noritaka Egusa, Editor-in-Chief

The inscription on the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park reads, “For we shall not repeat the evil.” I wonder what was on his mind when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stood silently in front of the cenotaph during his visit to Hiroshima.

The current secretary of state of the nation that dropped the atomic bomb on this city had paused at a hallowed spot located near the hypocenter of that weapon. This historic moment, never before witnessed over the past 71 years, was realized when the foreign ministers held their meeting in Hiroshima.

After touring the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Mr. Kerry said during a press conference, “It is a stunning display. It is a gut-wrenching display.” I think these were his honest feelings.

The foreign ministers from the United Kingdom and France were surely moved, too. But from what they wrote in the museum guestbook, it is evident that their roles prevent them from expressing themselves candidly. Still, I believe that their visit to Hiroshima swayed them toward reflecting on what it means to continue clinging to these inhumane weapons.

That was the very significance of holding the meeting in Hiroshima.

The Hiroshima Declaration adopted by the foreign ministers includes the words “immense devastation and human suffering as a consequence of the atomic bombings.” Though the declaration did not use the term “inhumane,” this wording still conveys a weighty meaning when we consider that the nuclear powers also gave it their blessing.

Seeking to serve as a bridge between the nuclear and non-nuclear states, Fumio Kishida, Japan’s minister of foreign affairs, chaired the meeting and led the discussions. Mr. Kishida’s orientation and efforts made the adoption of the declaration possible.

Still, the people of Hiroshima hope that political leaders will now go the extra mile, since the ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear weapons entirely is not yet in sight.

On the whole, the Hiroshima Declaration leaves something to be desired. The expression “creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons” is the same idea, just said with different words, as “an incremental and realistic approach to nuclear disarmament,” the position firmly held by the U.S. and Japanese governments. The notion that a world without nuclear weapons will follow as an extension of a world with fewer nuclear weapons is inconceivable.

We hold high hopes for the possible visit to Hiroshima by U.S. President Barack Obama. Mr. Obama is capable of conveying a strong message, and if this visit is realized, it could constitute a tremendous step forward. The fate of humankind hinges on abolishing nuclear weapons, and we must pursue a different approach to advance nuclear disarmament and achieve this long-sought desire.

Do not assume that a nuclear weapons convention, the North East Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, or a nuclear-free security partnership between Japan and the United States are mere pipe dreams. If Japan, which experienced the atomic attacks, uses all its powers of persuasion, the nuclear states will listen to us and act with us. This is a lesson learned from the foreign ministers’ meeting.

As long as nuclear weapons exist, we will always be haunted by the fear that they could be used. What responsibility lies in the hearts of human beings, all human beings, for preventing the horrific tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki from occurring again? We must once again reflect on the meaning of the inscription found on the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims.

(Originally published on April 12, 2016)