College students present research as U.N. conference on disarmament issues closes

by Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writer

On February 1, the United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues, held in the city of Shizuoka, closed its three-day schedule after college students from inside and outside Japan presented their research on peace and disarmament and shared their views with conference participants.

At the special session entitled “World Student Disarmament Meeting,” university students from Shizuoka, along with international students from Malaysia and Myanmar, made presentations. The eight students appealed to the audience with such views as, “Increasing efforts to embrace the diversity of nations and ethnicities is the first step to building peace in the world.” Hopes for the contributions of youth to disarmament issues were voiced by a number of disarmament officials and researchers from various nations.

At the closing ceremony, Sharon Riggle, the director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and Pacific, whose organization arranged the conference, stressed the accomplishments of the gathering, saying, “Lively discussions were held and new perspectives on advancing disarmament were proposed.”

The conference, marking its 24th annual gathering, featured discussion which anticipated other upcoming international events, including an international conference on “the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons” that will take place in Oslo, Norway in March.

Commentary: Japanese government casts chill over discussions on nuclear disarmament

by Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writer

At the U.N. Conference on Disarmament Issues, the focus of discussion turned to the idea of pursuing a ban on nuclear weapons by emphasizing their inhumanity. While nations taking part in the conference expressed support for this approach, the Japanese government rebuffed the idea, arguing that a ban on nuclear weapons was “unrealistic.” The A-bombed nation of Japan repeatedly cast a chill over the proceedings and the new momentum for abolishing nuclear weapons.

The representative from Norway raised the issue. In March, the Norwegian government will hold an international conference in the capital of Oslo on the theme of “the inhumanity of nuclear weapons.” The Norwegian official appealed to the participants, saying, “Adopting an innovative approach is vital in order to press the nuclear weapon states to abandon their nuclear weapons.”

The idea of creating a breakthrough in nuclear disarmament and nuclear abolition, by focusing on the inhumanity of nuclear weapons, has become a widespread notion among the international community. In October 2012, 35 nations, including Norway, Switzerland, and Denmark, submitted a joint statement to the First Committee (Disarmament) of the United Nations’ General Assembly.

The Japanese government, however, declined to sign the statement, arguing that it was “not consistent with Japan’s national security policy.” The government concluded that the statement could adversely impact the nation’s ability to rely on the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

Mari Amano, the ambassador of Japan to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, was representing the Japanese government. “If the international community pursues a ban on nuclear weapons, there would be a backlash from the nuclear weapon states,” he said.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are critical of the position taken by the A-bombed nation. Tilman Ruff, co-president of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), stated flatly, “Japan cannot be a leader in nuclear disarmament until it withdraws from the nuclear policy maintained by the United States.”

Mitsuru Kurosawa, the president of the Japan Association of Disarmament Studies and a professor at Osaka Jogakuin College's graduate school, stressed, “There is significance in the fact that over 30 national governments have begun to highlight the inhumanity of nuclear weapons, something that A-bomb survivors have been saying for a long time.” Mr. Kurosawa also pointed out, “These nations have not called for an immediate ban on nuclear arms. The Japanese government needn’t reject the idea of supporting this move.”

(Originally published on February 2, 2013)