Hiroshima Mayor sends letters to NPT member nations, calling for adoption of final document toward nuclear disarmament

Expectations for January conference

by Kana Kobayashi, Junji Akechi and Kohei Okata, Staff Writers

Prior to the holding of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in January 2022, the Mayors for Peace organization sent open letters on December 13 to all the treaty member states, calling on them to engage in constructive dialogue for nuclear disarmament at the conference and to include concrete measures in the gathering’s final document. At a press conference held that day, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui, who serves as president of the Mayors for Peace, remarked, “I anticipate adoption of a final document.” The review conference is to be held at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

The last review conference, held in 2015, broke down without a final document being adopted, due to confrontation between nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states regarding the language of the document. Non-nuclear weapon states called for the banning of nuclear weapons from a legal perspective because of their humanitarian consequences, while nuclear weapon states backed the idea of phased nuclear disarmament. A major gap also existed between the two sides concerning denuclearization of the Middle East.

In the letter, the Mayors for Peace organization pointed out that the pursuit of nuclear abolition is a legal obligation of the NPT member states. As for the current situation, in which nuclear weapon states are engaged in a nuclear arms race, the organization expressed its disappointment and concern that member states “have not even formulated plans to hold negotiations for the elimination of nuclear weapons.”

The organization also called on NPT member states to “set deadlines and take specific measures to implement” action plans for nuclear disarmament that were agreed upon in previous review meetings. The organization encouraged members to hold discussions based on recognition that the NPT and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which entered into force in January 2021, play a complementary role with each other.

Nevertheless, as the coronavirus pandemic continues unabated, Mr. Matsui officially announced he would give up his visit to the United States during the holding of the review conference, scheduled to open on January 4. Explaining his reasoning for foregoing the trip, he said, “It will be hard to access the conference venue and very difficult to meet participants.” He added, “It is terribly disappointing that the precious opportunity to directly convey the importance of nuclear disarmament will be lost.” Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue, who serves as vice president of the Mayors for Peace, also announced his decision to not travel to the United States.

During the review conference, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will be given a certain timeframe within which they can express their opinions. The two mayors are trying to take that advantage of that opportunity to make their own statements. An A-bomb poster exhibit is also expected to be shown at the UN’s U.S. headquarters.

On the same day, the Hiroshima Prefectural government announced it also would not send Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki and other officials to the United States to attend the conference. Instead, the government is planning to hold an online symposium in conjunction with the conference. The prefectural government also plans to hold an exhibit in the vicinity of the venue to promote its “Hiroshima Initiative,” which has the objective of concluding an international agreement for the elimination of nuclear weapons, including nuclear weapon states, by 2030.

(Originally published on December 14, 2021)