Editorial: Nagasaki mayor’s Peace Declaration questions nuclear deterrence logic

“I would like to call this treaty, which mentions the suffering and struggles of the hibakusha, ‘The Hiroshima‐Nagasaki Treaty,’” Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue said at the beginning of his Peace Declaration on August 9, referring to the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that was adopted at the United Nations in July. We agree that this would be a very fitting term for the treaty.

Some people suggest that the treaty is an ineffective agreement because neither Japan nor any of the nuclear weapon states have yet to join it. Still, the treaty was approved by 122 nations, or more than 60% of U.N. member states. It was concluded, too, with the A-bombed cities in mind and therefore could also be dubbed “the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Treaty.”

As Mr. Taue stated in his Peace Declaration, we would also like to express our gratitude to all the non-nuclear countries, the United Nations, and others who have “acted with such vigorous determination and courage to rid the world of weapons that go against the spirit of humanity.”

Mr. Taue then appealed to the nuclear-armed states and the nations under their nuclear umbrella by saying, “The nuclear threat will not end as long as nations continue to claim that nuclear weapons are essential for their national security. Please reconsider your policies of seeking to protect your nations through nuclear weapons.” This is an important call from the leader of an A-bombed city which clearly refutes the logic of nuclear deterrence.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also spoke in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki and touched on what he believes is needed to realize “a world free of nuclear weapons.” However, he mentioned only the participation of both the nuclear weapon states and the non-nuclear nations, and did not refer to the treaty or propose any concrete measures for eliminating nuclear weapons.

When former U.S. President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima, he said, “Among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear, and pursue a world without them.” To the contrary, Mr. Abe’s speech at the Peace Memorial Ceremony lacked the same strong resolve that was displayed by Mr. Obama.

Both Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui and Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue mentioned the Constitution in their Peace Declarations. Mr. Matsui urged the Japanese government to manifest the pacifism in our Constitution by doing everything in its power to bridge the gap between the nuclear nations and non-nuclear nations. Similarly, Mr. Taue asked the Japanese government to affirm to the world its “commitment to the pacifist ethos of the Constitution of Japan, which firmly renounces war,” and its strict observance of the Three Non-Nuclear Principles.

Both declarations are also linked to Prime Minister Abe’s proposal to revise Article 9 of the Constitution and add a paragraph to clarify the Self Defense Force’s legal status, while maintaining Paragraph 1 which renounces war and Paragraph 2 which prohibits Japan from maintaining land, sea, and air forces. Many A-bomb survivors have used the pacifism stated in Article 9 to support their efforts to create a “world free of nuclear weapons.” They may feel a sense of uneasiness about the future of the Constitution.

Mr. Taue also stated in his declaration that the most frightening things are disinterest and the process of forgetting. Furthermore, he expressed that the “era in which the hibakusha are still with us” is drawing to an end. The time when we will be unable to rely on hearing direct accounts from the survivors is now not far in the future.

It is therefore very encouraging that high school student peace ambassadors, nationwide, whose program marked its 20th anniversary, gathered at the A-bomb hypocenter in Nagasaki on August 9 and declared that they would work together toward creating “a world without nuclear weapons.” It is noteworthy that the city of Kitakyushu, which was originally selected as a target for the second atomic attack in Japan, has begun considering a plan to build a municipal peace museum with the idea that Kitakyushu could have been an A-bombed city.

These days, passing on the survivors’ experiences to future generations has become a vital task, and the significance of conveying the reality of the atomic bombings by displaying artifacts in the museums continues to grow. This year, August 6 and 9 have served to reinforce these conclusions.

(Originally published on August 10, 2017)