Nagasaki mayor urges Japanese government to support initiative to ban nuclear weapons

by Kohei Okata and Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writers

With the Japanese government declining to join a statement backed by 16 nations, including Switzerland, seeking to make nuclear weapons illegal, Tomihisa Taue, the mayor of Nagasaki, visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on October 19 to urge the government to reconsider its position. Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui has also expressed his intention to urge the government to join the alliance of 16 nations.

Mr. Taue met behind closed doors with Mitsuru Kitano, director-general of the Non-proliferation and Science Department within the ministry. It is believed that the ministry holds no objection to describing nuclear weapons as “inhumane,” yet it has not altered its stance with respect to the statement. This is because the statement’s call for efforts to ban nuclear weapons runs counter to the government’s security policy, which relies on the nuclear deterrent provided by the United States.

Mr. Taue said, “Many nations have begun an effort to eliminate nuclear arms from the world by shining a spotlight on their inhumane nature. The Japanese government must become engaged in this effort, too.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Matsui stressed in an interview with the Chugoku Shimbun: “The statement is aligned with the appeal of the A-bombed city of Hiroshima, seeking to abolish the absolute evil of nuclear weapons.” The mayor said that he will move to press the Japanese government to support the 16-nation alliance.

The Japan Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo) released a request made by Masakazu Yasui, secretary general of the organization, urging the government to play a proactive role in supporting the anti-nuclear statement. At the Committee on Audit and Oversight of Administration, established by the House of Councilors, Naoki Kazama, parliamentary vice-minister for Foreign Affairs, said clearly that Japan will decline to support the statement. At the same time, Mr. Kazama expressed his willingness to consider conveying an appeal regarding the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons at the foreign ministerial conference of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), to be held in Hiroshima in 2014. He mentioned this in response to a question posed by Masaaki Taniai, a lawmaker of the New Komeito Party.

(Originally published on October 20, 2012)