A-bomb survivors’ groups express mixed feelings over Hiroshima mayor’s Peace Declaration

(by Kyosuke Mizukawa, Yumie Kubo, and Minami Yamashita, Staff Writers)

On August 6, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui read out the Hiroshima Peace Declaration and called on the Japanese government to accede to the request by the hibakusha (A-bomb survivors) that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) be signed and ratified. A-bomb survivors’ groups expressed a certain amount of satisfaction with the mayor’s message but some voiced opinions, one after another, that Mr. Matsui should have taken a step further and, as the mayor of Hiroshima, the A-bombed city, called for Japan to sign and ratify the nuclear weapons ban treaty.

Tomoyuki Mimaki, 77, the acting chair of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organization (Hiroshima Prefectural Hidankyo, chaired by Sunao Tsuboi) offered positive feedback about the declaration, overall, by saying, “The declaration this year was more powerful than the declaration of last year. It still gave the impression that the mayor made his request to the national government because the A-bomb survivors asked him to do so, but I believe it has nearly met our expectations and reached the ninth climbing station out of ten on Mr. Fuji, if we compare it to climbing that mountain.”

The Peace Declaration made last year and two years ago lacked any direct statement urging the Japanese government to sign and ratify the nuclear weapons ban treaty. In July, six groups of A-bomb survivors, including the two Hiroshima Prefectural Hidankyo, submitted a letter of request to Mr. Matsui to clearly call on the national government to sign and ratify the treaty in the declaration.

Kunihiko Sakuma, 74, the chair of the other Hiroshima Prefectural Hidankyo, also said he appreciated this year’s declaration more than the declaration made last year, but expressed some dissatisfaction, too. Mr. Sakuma said, “I want the mayor to cooperate with citizens while expressing his own wishes to the government. He still isn’t assertive enough when it comes to urging the government to support the treaty in cooperation with citizens.”

Last year, when Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue read out the Nagasaki Peace Declaration, he used his own words to urge the Japanese government to advocate the nuclear weapons ban treaty. Mr. Taue will ask the government to sign and ratify the treaty in this year’s declaration, too.

Haruko Moritaki, 80, the co-chair of the Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (HANWA), a citizens’ group, said forcefully, “Unless the declaration includes the mayor’s own words as the representative of citizens of Hiroshima, urging the government to sign and ratify the treaty, it has less persuasive power.” Ms. Moritaki would like the declaration to make an appeal for the treaty by linking it with the inhumane damages wrought by the atomic bombing, which formed the basis for establishing the treaty, and the risk of relying on nuclear deterrence, pressing the government more strongly to sign and ratify it.

Erika Abiko, 40, a cafe owner living in Naka Ward who holds events at her cafe to encourage people to think about nuclear abolition, said emphatically, “Hiroshima’s declaration is weaker than the declaration made in Nagasaki.” Ms. Abiko suggested that the meeting to gather the opinions of experts and survivors about drafting the declaration also include young people so that a broad range of ideas can be reflected in the declaration.

After Mr. Matsui issued his Peace Declaration, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivered a speech but made no reference at all to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Akira Kawasaki, 50, a member of the international steering committee of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a non-governmental organization (NGO), assessed the declaration and said, “The Japanese government must now be asked how it views the treaty and what it intends to do.” Mr. Kawasaki expressed his hope that this year’s declaration could help increase interest in the treaty nationwide.

Commentary: Peace Declaration still implies consideration to the Japanese government

by Kyosuke Mizukawa, Staff Writer

The Peace Declaration made by Kazumi Matsui, the mayor of Hiroshima, called on the Japanese government to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as a request from the A-bomb survivors. In this regard, Mr. Matsui took a step further than in declarations he has made in the past, but he still avoided using a clear or direct appeal, as the mayor of Hiroshima, for the government to sign and ratify the treaty. It is hard to conclude that he was able to fully satisfy the expectations of survivors and citizens.

According to the questionnaire conducted by the Chugoku Shimbun this summer, about 90% of the A-bomb survivors’ groups across Japan were hoping that the Peace Declaration would request that the national government sign and ratify the nuclear weapons ban treaty. Because the nuclear weapon states and the Japanese government continue to spurn the treaty, many people want the mayor to send out a strong message as the representative of the citizens of the A-bombed city, a witness to the inhumanity of nuclear weapons.

Despite this, Mr. Matsui has not taken a firm stance. This conveys his typical attitude of prioritizing cooperation with the government over potential conflict. Isn’t the power of his declaration made weaker because he was overly solicitous of the Japanese government’s position of building a bridge between the nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states, which was also mentioned by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in his speech?

With global efforts for nuclear disarmament trending in the opposite direction, Japan should be fulfilling its role of building a bridge between the nations on this divide. Furthermore, Japan must take on the task of encouraging many nations, including the nuclear powers, to support the nuclear weapons ban treaty, too. But because the Japanese government is dependent on the U.S. nuclear umbrella, it has instead become aligned with the nuclear weapon states in its opposition to the treaty.

Both the mayor of the A-bombed city and the prime minister of this nation, which experienced the wartime atomic bombings, must fulfill their responsibilities by taking in the sincere pleas made by the A-bomb survivors and making straightforward appeals for the abolition of nuclear weapons without bowing to any other influences.

(Originally published on August 7, 2019)