Group of Eminent Persons Conference opens in Nagasaki, seeks ways to advance nuclear abolition

by Kyosuke Mizukawa, Staff Writer

The third session of the Group of Eminent Persons Conference opened on November 14 in Nagasaki. The gathering, organized by Japan’s foreign ministry, will discuss nuclear disarmament issues for two days with experts from eight countries including nuclear-armed nations like the United States, Russia, and France, and some non-nuclear nations. Against the backdrop of developments in the world that run counter to the goal of nuclear disarmament, such as the U.S. intention to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the participants of the conference will discuss ways to take steps forward for nuclear disarmament. On the first day, they discussed current conditions involving nuclear weapons and learned about the damage wrought by the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.

Fifteen of the 17 participants of the conference were in attendance, including Linton F. Brooks, the former administrator of the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA); Tim Caughley, the Non-Resident Senior Fellow of the United Nations Institute For Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) from New Zealand, which has already ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons; and others. The participants from China and Australia were absent.

At the start of the session, one of the participants, Masao Tomonaga, the honorary director of the Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Genbaku Hospital and an A-bomb survivor, delivered the opening remarks. He stressed the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons by saying, “The atomic bomb survivors have been affected by the bombings throughout their lives, such as the development of cancer or leukemia,” and pointed out the importance of engaging in dialogue and building trust in order to realize the abolition of nuclear arms.

After Mr. Tomonaga’s remarks, the gathering was closed to the public. According to an official of the foreign ministry, the participants reviewed two opposing views, whether or not nuclear weapons can be justified, and exchanged opinions on issues like the INF Treaty, the denuclearization of North Korea, and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Prior to the opening of the conference, the participants visited the Nagasaki Peace Park. On the group’s behalf, the chair of the conference, Takashi Shiraishi, who is the president of the Prefectural University of Kumamoto and an expert on international politics, and Mr. Brooks laid flowers at the Peace Statue. They toured the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and listened to the account of an A-bomb survivor.

On November 15, the second day of the conference, the participants will discuss such topics as the relationship between nuclear disarmament and a guarantee of security. After the meeting closes, a press conference will be held to announce the summary of the discussions that were held and a proposed path forward. With the aim of serving as a bridge to address the divide between the nuclear nations and non-nuclear nations, the Japanese government held the first session of the Group of Eminent Persons Conference in November of last year in Hiroshima.

(Originally published on November 15, 2018)