Group of Eminent Persons Conference closes in Nagasaki, stresses “deteriorating” global conditions of nuclear weapons

by Kyosuke Mizukawa, Staff Writer

On November 15, the third session of the Group of Eminent Persons Conference in Nagasaki (hosted by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs) closed after discussing such issues as the relationship between nuclear disarmament and national security. The chair of the conference, Takashi Shiraishi, who is the president of the Prefectural University of Kumamoto and an expert on international politics, summed up the discussions by saying, “The participants shared the recognition that international conditions involving nuclear weapons have deteriorated” during their discussion of the U.S. intention to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and other topics during the session. In the first half of the next year, they will sit down and talk together again in order to recommend some concrete solutions.

After the closed-door discussions concluded, Mr. Shiraishi described the highlights of the two-day session at a press conference. He said, “The participants reached genuine consensus that Nagasaki should be the last place ever attacked with a nuclear weapon.” In addition, he talked about the divide between the nuclear nations and non-nuclear nations. The nuclear powers have argued that nuclear weapons are necessary for their security while the non-nuclear nations have called for bold actions for nuclear disarmament based on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, on the grounds of the inhumane nature of these weapons. He said, “Bridging the divide between these two sides is very difficult.”

Mr. Shiraishi also said that the participants had a discussion on ways to include other nuclear nations in the INF Treaty, in addition to the United States and Russia. Regarding the denuclearization of North Korea, Masao Tomonaga, one of the participants from Nagasaki, who is the honorary director of the Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Genbaku Hospital, proposed that a nuclear-weapon-free zone be established for Northeast Asia. However, with respect to concrete measures to resolve these challenges, Mr. Shiraishi said that each participant presented proposals but they engaged in no further discussion.

At the next session, the participants will delve into more detailed ways of advancing nuclear disarmament and will consider submitting the group’s proposals at the third Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), to be held next spring. Yasuyoshi Komizo, the chairperson of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, said, “With international conditions now growing worse, it’s very important that the two sides continue engaging in dialogue for the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons.”

The Japanese government held the first session of the Group of Eminent Persons Conference in Hiroshima last November with the aim of serving as a bridge between the nuclear nations, which are opposed to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and the non-nuclear nations, which are advocating the treaty. This session was attended by 15 experts from eight nations, including the United States and Russia.

(Originally published on November 16, 2018)