Editorial: NPT Preparatory Committee should urge nuclear nations to pursue nuclear disarmament

The Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference is now taking place at the United Nations Office at Geneva, Switzerland until May 4. Will the committee be able to win concessions from the nuclear weapon states, which continue to turn their backs on the nuclear weapons ban treaty, adopted at the United Nations last July? As citizens of Hiroshima, we intend to pay close attention to the developments made during this important meeting of the Preparatory Committee.

The day before yesterday, an 80-year-old woman who experienced the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the two A-bombed cities, spoke before the committee. In addition to the fact that nuclear arms are dreadfully inhumane weapons, Hiroshima Mayor Kazuhiro Matsui argued in his speech that concrete measures to advance nuclear disarmament should be put in place as soon as possible. Did the representatives of U.N. member nations, the participants from the nuclear nations in particular, listen attentively to the voices of these speakers?

The thrust of the nuclear weapons ban treaty is that eliminating nuclear weapons entirely is the only way to make the earth a safe and peaceful place. As long as nuclear arms still exist, there is always the risk that they may be used in the future. Even if a nuclear weapon were to explode in error or by accident, the catastrophic experiences of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have shown what would happen to a stricken city and its people. The use of nuclear weapons cannot be justified under any circumstances, no matter the reason or the target.

If a city is attacked with a nuclear weapon, many civilians will fall victim. The idea that nuclear arms are inhumane is only natural. The international community took seriously the long-running appeals made by the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and took action, which led to the adoption of the nuclear weapons ban treaty.

The nuclear-armed nations remain opposed to the treaty, after taking no part in the international negotiations to establish it. Do they not understand that their negative statements and actions against nuclear disarmament have ironically led to a backlash from the international community and generated a stronger push for the adoption of the treaty?

Article 6 of the NPT stipulates that all parties pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures concerning nuclear disarmament. About half a century has passed since this treaty went into effect, but it is hard to say that the nuclear nations have made a sincere effort all this time. Although the number of nuclear weapons in the world has dropped substantially as a result of the end of the Cold War, there are still about 15,000 nuclear weapons and their total destructive power could annihilate the earth several times over. Because of divisions between the United States and the EU nations on one side, and Russia on the other in recent years, dialogue for nuclear disarmament has stalled.

In addition, since the arrival of the Trump administration last year, the development of smaller nuclear weapons has become part of the new U.S. nuclear strategy. This move runs counter to the policy of the former Obama administration, which sought to reduce the role of nuclear arms by advocating the idea of “a world without nuclear weapons.” It must be said that the Trump administration has been carrying on with inhumane acts.

Current conditions cause worry over the outcome of negotiations with North Korea, which has persistently pushed ahead with its nuclear tests and missile development. U.S. President Donald Trump will soon meet with the North Korean leader for a summit and it is imperative that he call on North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. However, peace and stability in the region can’t be achieved unless the greater goal is the denuclearizing of the entire Korean Peninsula and, ultimately, Northeast Asia as a whole.

As for the Japanese government, its response has been outrageous. Though the government has said that it will serve as a mediator between the nations backing the nuclear weapons ban treaty and the nuclear powers, it seems to us that it has become a mere spokesperson for the United States, supporting its new nuclear strategy. Because of its dependence on the U.S. nuclear umbrella, Japan has become overly concerned with that nation’s position and has lost sight of the larger trend toward nuclear abolition taking place among the international community.

The goal of abolishing nuclear arms was set by the United States and other nuclear nations themselves. If they seek to sidestep nuclear abolition with their cliché of “phased nuclear disarmament,” we expect them to provide a clear path toward this goal with that approach.

For instance, how about a call for the nuclear nations to pledge that they won’t use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear nations and that they won’t use these weapons first against other nuclear powers, either?

To press the nuclear-armed nations to pursue nuclear disarmament efforts in good faith, and monitor their promises to the international community, it is vital that the pro-treaty nations, international NGOs, and people in the A-bombed locations advance their efforts to build a foundation for dialogue. Only by doing so will it be possible to open up a new pathway toward realizing “a world without nuclear weapons.”

(Originally published on April 27, 2018)