Appealing for nuclear abolition on August 6 and beyond

by Hiromasa Nagata, Staff Writer

Tomorrow, August 6, is the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. During the past year, the view of the international community has shifted toward the elimination of nuclear weapons. U.S. President Barack Obama took office this year and bolstered this trend by making clear his conviction to pursue a world without nuclear weapons.

We now enter a crucial stage where concrete measures to advance nuclear disarmament must be prepared. While the world shows signs of change, the city devastated 64 years ago will see thousands of people pray for the souls of the victims and for peace in the world. Their prayers tomorrow will convey a clear message to those at home and abroad that the elimination of nuclear weapons is indeed possible.

Mr. Obama made a major contribution in turning the international tide over the nuclear weapons issue. The leader of the superpower made a speech in Prague on April 5, ten weeks after his inauguration, plainly stating his intention to seek a nuclear-weapon-free world. His speech was highly praised.

The change in policy by the United States, the only country to have used nuclear weapons against human beings, will give impetus to other nations’ nuclear disarmament efforts. The citizens of Hiroshima are hoping that President Obama will visit their city, even during his first trip to Japan, reportedly planned for November.

This summer, the city of Hiroshima launched the “Obamajority Campaign” to increase public awareness of the issue. The term “Obamajority” represents the idea that “a world without nuclear weapons,” is the wish not only of Mr. Obama but of the majority of the world’s people.

At the same time, there have been unfavorable developments, too. North Korea conducted a nuclear test this past May. Pakistan, to counter neighboring India’s military power, has admitted expanding its nuclear development facilities.

The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, set for May 2010 in New York, is a crossroads for the future direction of nuclear disarmament. While there are deep concerns about nuclear proliferation, can the NPT effect concrete measures to further nuclear disarmament? The very foundation of the NPT regime will be tested.

Meanwhile, we must face the reality of Japan’s contradictory stance as it makes appeals for the abolition of nuclear weapons while relying on the U.S. nuclear umbrella for its own security. Under close scrutiny is the alleged existence of a secret Japan-U.S. agreement over the entry of U.S. nuclear weapons into Japan. The three non-nuclear principles which Japan upholds seem to have been undermined. While the government denies the existence of such an agreement, results of the Lower House election planned at the end of August may herald a new administration and have an important impact on the future of the three non-nuclear principles. The new administration will perhaps bring the truth of the secret agreement to light.

As of the end of March 2009, the number of A-bomb survivors who hold the Atomic Bomb Survivor’s Certificate is 235,569, down 8,123 from the previous year. Their average age has risen to 75.92, up 0.78. Despite the aging survivors winning a series of class action lawsuits over A-bomb disease certification, the central government has still not come to a decision on its policy, which is key to the comprehensive settlement of this issue.

The survivors have lost loved ones and suffer themselves from considerable physical and mental scars. Some have been expressing the importance of peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons for a long time by overcoming their anger and grief. Others have just begun to tell their stories after 64 years. August 6 will remind us of the importance of conveying their messages.

(Originally published on August 5, 2009)