Editorial: Nagasaki observes A-bomb anniversary with encouraging words

Nuclear weapons were created by human beings, so human beings can eliminate them from the world, too. This was the message made by Tomihisa Taue, the mayor of Nagasaki, in the Peace Declaration he delivered on August 9.

While appealing to the international community for an early effectuation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and a security framework that does not rely on nuclear arms, Mr. Taue also appealed to each one of us to help empower civil society to spread a “culture of peace” throughout the world.

Mr. Taue was apparently mindful of the presence of Antonio Guterres, the first Secretary-General of the United Nations to attend the Nagasaki Peace Ceremony. In his speech, Mr. Taue referred to the first resolution adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1946, which mentioned “the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction,” and the Constitution of Japan issued in the same year which set pacifism as one of its unwavering pillars. He said that they were the expression of “strong determination” that the tragedy of the atomic bombings and the war would never be repeated. He then regarded the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted last year, as an extension of this strong determination.

Mr. Taue made a persuasive call for the leaders of the nuclear-armed nations and the countries that rely on the nuclear umbrella not to forget this resolution. His appeal was directed not only to political leaders but also to the general public. He called on “the people of the world” to lobby their governments and parliaments to sign and ratify the nuclear weapons ban treaty so it can come into effect at the earliest possible date. We could feel the underlying hope and trust in his words.

“Peace can be built by hard work, solidarity, compassion and respect,” said Mr. Guterres in his speech, as if responding to Mr. Taue’s Peace Declaration. He spoke about not only the larger context of foreign policy and the world’s security framework, but also the minds of individuals.

His remarks were made against the backdrop of an impasse in the process of nuclear disarmament. Although some progress has been made with respect to North Korea, including the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit, the future there remains uncertain. Moreover, the nuclear powers themselves have not made satisfactory efforts to reduce their nuclear arsenals. Mr. Guterres, who considers “the total elimination of nuclear weapons as the highest disarmament priority of the United Nations,” no doubt attended the Peace Ceremony in Nagasaki to demonstrate his strong commitment to “making Nagasaki the last place on earth to suffer nuclear devastation.”

Let us turn, then, to what the government of the only nation to have experienced nuclear attack said during the ceremony. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that the Group of Eminent Persons Conference was scheduled for this fall in Nagasaki, but he did not say a word about the nuclear weapons ban treaty. His entire speech was superficial. Although he stated that the government would make persistent efforts so that the tragedies that occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki would not be repeated, we wonder what actions he intends to take and how he will carry them out. If his rhetoric does not lead to concrete steps, it will be clear that his words are empty, merely a facade for public appearances.

Seventy-three years have passed since the atomic bombings. Terumi Tanaka, the co-chair of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo) and this year’s Atomic Bomb Survivor Representative, is now 86 years old. In his “Pledge for Peace,” he welcomed the treaty with joy, saying, “The path to nuclear abolition, which the hibakusha (A-bomb survivors) desperately wished to see during their lifetimes, has now come into view.” At the same time, he expressed his disappointment at the government of the A-bombed nation, which has clearly stated that it will not join the treaty. It is only natural that Mr. Tanaka feels deep disappointment with the government’s position.

Those who experienced the hell on earth wrought by the atomic bombings are dying one after another. Since last summer, two leading A-bomb survivors in Nagasaki, Sumiteru Taniguchi and Hideo Tsuchiyama, who played key roles in the movement to abolish nuclear weapons, have passed away. Mr. Taue also mentioned them in the Peace Declaration. “They harbored great worries that those who have never experienced war or atomic bombings might head down mistaken paths.” He then shared concrete ways to help advance the abolition of nuclear arms by saying, “You can visit the A-bombed cities to learn history and the fearfulness of nuclear weapons, or listen to accounts of the wartime experiences of those in your own towns.” Many listeners of his speech were likely encouraged by his words, thinking that these are steps they can take.

It is imperative that each and every person take action in some way to confront the misguided logic of nuclear deterrence. Hiroshima must join hands with the rest of the world to actualize a planet that is free from nuclear weapons and war.

(Originally published on August 10, 2018)