Editorial: 72 years after the atomic bombing, nuclear weapons must never be used

“What flowers bloom in summer in your country? In my country, summer is very hot, and not many flowers bloom. Oddly enough, however, only red flowers bloom in large numbers.”

This quote is from the beginning of the novella Canna, A Letter to You, included in Light of August, Listening to Lost Voices, by Sho Kutsuki, a second-generation A-bomb survivor. The writer’s grandmother was 9 and her brother was 4 when they experienced the flash of the atomic bomb. They suffered no burns, but her brother died shortly after he admired the canna flowers that had bloomed on the scorched earth. She asked the writer never to forget her brother. The novella ends with the following words:

“What flowers bloom in summer in your country? There must be some flowers like the canna in your land, too, a flower that bloomed again after being knocked down by tremendous force.”

Adoption of treaty is major milestone

These words bear the power of imagination of people from the A-bombed cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Seventy-two years have passed since the atomic bombings. The survivors and citizens of these places that experienced the first nuclear attacks in human history have persisted in voicing their objections to acts of inhumanity that have occurred since the end of the war and have prayed that suffering people and nations will recover. Of course, throughout, they have demanded that nuclear weapons never again be used.

In this sense, 2017 has seen a major milestone. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted at the United Nations with the support of 122 member states. This is the first international law that completely outlaws such weapons. It comprehensively bans all actions that are linked to nuclear arms, including their development, production, and possession.

Underlying this move are the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, a concept that has been drawing greater attention in the international community. The treaty represents the belief of its backers that nuclear disarmament is a moral obligation and that a world without nuclear weapons must be realized as soon as possible. We who live in Hiroshima would like to pay our respects to the non-nuclear weapon states that worked to adopt this treaty.

When the representative from Costa Rica, who chaired the treaty talks, made the draft of the agreement, the preamble referred to the suffering of hibakusha, indicating a commitment to realizing a nuclear-weapon-free world. The treaty states: “Mindful of...the suffering of...victims of nuclear weapons (hibakusha), as well as those affected by the testing of nuclear weapons.”

Opposing the idea of nuclear deterrence

This wording is important for Japan, which has seen its nationals exposed to radioactive fallout, the “ashes of death,” from U.S. nuclear tests while they were on board deep-sea fishing boats. The Daigo Fukuryu Maru (The Lucky Dragon No. 5) and others are “eyewitnesses to history.” In this nuclear age, many people have been deprived of their land, and many countries have been damaged by nuclear tests, which pose a threat to people’s lives and health.

The fact that the treaty also outlaws the threat of using nuclear weapons means that it opposes the idea of nuclear deterrence. Any peace made possible by the threat of nuclear weapons is not true peace. However, along with the nuclear weapon states, Japan, too, which experienced the atomic attacks, has rebuffed the treaty and its provision about a ban on nuclear threats. This is unacceptable.

In the Peace Declaration that Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui read out at the August 6 ceremony to mark the atomic bombing, he used such words as “conscience” and “good faith” more than once. Another word for this could be “norm.” We are shadowed by the fear that the norm that has continued to restrict the use of nuclear arms in warfare is now crumbling. We strongly assert that nuclear weapons must never be used and that no one ever be allowed to use them or threaten to use them.

Donald Trump has been seeking to strengthen the U.S. nuclear arsenal after taking over as U.S. president from Barack Obama, who delivered a speech from Hiroshima. During the crisis in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, with no qualms, that he was prepared to use nuclear weapons, and he has been upgrading Russia’s military capabilities. With no chance of nuclear disarmament between these two nations, it feels like a time of bleak winter.

Furthermore, North Korea has been conducting ballistic missile tests, trying to develop missiles that can reach not only Japan and South Korea but also the U.S. mainland. Just like Russia and the United States, this despotic state is another factor that increases the risk of the use of nuclear weapons.

Refrain from flying carrier-based aircraft

The public will agree that Japan should play the role of serving as a bridge between the nuclear and non-nuclear nations. But the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gives top priority to the U.S. nuclear umbrella, insists on strengthening ties with the United States, and did not take part in the U.N. negotiations to craft a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. We cannot expect this administration to act as a mediator.

In his Peace Declaration for August 9, the day Nagasaki was attacked with the second atomic bomb, Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue will call on the Japanese government to review its security policy of depending on nuclear weapons. Though security is important, there is no sense in sticking to nuclear arms that have been branded as “evil” by the treaty.

As a newspaper based in Hiroshima, the Chugoku Shimbun made the request that Mr. Obama’s visit to Hiroshima not be used to stress the robust alliance between the United States and Japan. Hiroshima is not a parlor that can be rented for such a purpose. However, some days ago, we were informed that the relocation of carrier aircraft to the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, located in Yamaguchi Prefecture, would begin around August 6. This can offend public sentiment in Hiroshima.

Leaving the pros and cons of the aircraft’s relocation aside, even a single U.S. fighter should not be seen nor its roar heard on the day meant to mourn the victims of the atomic bombing. We urge the United States to refrain from flying its carrier aircraft on August 6.

This year has seen the death of writer Kyoko Hayashi, who experienced the Nagasaki bombing while she was working as a mobilized student. In her short story Michi (Way), Ms. Hayashi wrote that there was a surprised look on her teacher’s face when she was suddenly killed by the bomb’s heat rays. In a commentary for our newspaper, Ms. Hayashi said that she would not write about the atomic bombing if it were a thing of the past. She bitterly criticized the fact that nuclear weapons were brought into Japan during the Cold War and urged that the three non-nuclear principles be steadfastly maintained.

Even after 72 years, the atomic bombings remain an ever-present issue. We must continue calling for the abolition of nuclear arms, our courage fueled by the many nations that have backed the nuclear weapons ban treaty.

(Originally published on August 6, 2017)