Hiroshima holds high hopes for President-elect Obama

by Hiromi Morita, Staff Writer

Democratic Senator Barack Obama was elected the next president of the United States of America, the nuclear superpower, on November 5 (November 4 in the U.S.). As Mr. Obama’s policies include the abolition of nuclear weapons, the hopes of the people in the A-bombed city of Hiroshima have grown higher in regard to nuclear disarmament.

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba released a statement upon hearing the news of Mr. Obama’s election. Mayor Akiba expressed positive expectations for the Obama presidency, remarking, “Momentum can now grow for the U.S. to change their nuclear policy for the better.” He also urged Mr. Obama to pay an early visit to Hiroshima after taking office.

Sunao Tsuboi, 82, chairman of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations, also shared his hopes for the new administration, the highest he has held for an incoming president. “I have enormous hopes for Obama,” said Mr. Tsuboi. “To start, I look forward to him carrying out his campaign promises.” During his campaign, Mr. Obama made clear such positions as ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), a pact the Bush administration has failed to endorse, and halting the development of new nuclear weapons.

Kazushi Kaneko, 81, chairman of another faction of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations, welcomed the change as well. “The elimination of nuclear weapons is no longer just a dream,” said Mr. Kaneko. “It may not be achieved all at once, but I hope that I can see the number of nuclear warheads begin declining while I’m still alive.”

“At least the situation will take a turn for the better compared to the Bush administration, which wouldn’t rule out the use of nuclear weapons,” commented Haruko Moritaki, 69, co-chair of the Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition. “Hiroshima’s efforts to abolish nuclear weapons should take advantage of this shift in the United States,” she added.

However, the path to nuclear abolition will not be a smooth one. Ichiro Yuasa, 58, president of the Peace Depot, a non-profit organization, and an expert on nuclear weapons issues, pointed out, “The policy of the United States, which requires nuclear deterrence for the security of its allies, will not change significantly. The key, though, lies in the Japanese government developing security measures that do not depend on nuclear deterrence. Japanese public opinion will be an important factor in this regard.”

(Originally published on November 6, 2008)

Prime Minister’s reaction more muted
by Masakazu Domen and Kohei Okata, Staff Writers

President-elect Obama has expressed his strong support for nuclear disarmament. On November 5, when Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso was asked for his comment on this issue by the media, he offered a more reserved response, stating, “No matter how much enthusiasm is expressed in the U.S., the matter is not that simple.” At the same time, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura appeared appreciative of Mr. Obama’s stance, calling this “a welcome development.”

Prime Minister Aso stressed that “Japan has taken a consistent position in favor of nuclear disarmament. But nuclear disarmament on a global scale will not make dramatic headway just because Obama becomes the next president of the United States. It isn’t that simple. It will take time and many efforts to accomplish this goal.”

In contrast to these remarks from the prime minister, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said during a press conference that “Japan, the only A-bombed nation, has been working for nuclear disarmament and the prevention of nuclear proliferation. The fact that President-elect Obama has clearly expressed the same aspirations is a welcome development.” Revealing hope for the future, Mr. Kawamura added, “We intend to keep a close eye on the new administration’s actions.”

(Originally published on November 6, 2008)

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The U.S. presidential election and the fate of nuclear weapons abolition (Nov. 4, 2008)
Now is the time to abolish nuclear weapons (Sept. 28, 2008)