Hiroshima reacts with hope and doubt to Obama bid to reduce nuclear arms

Following U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech in Berlin, in which he expressed determination to effect further reductions in nuclear arsenals, the people of Hiroshima shared praise and hope on June 19. Their voices, however, were tempered by disappointment over the series of nuclear tests carried out by the United States since Mr. Obama called for “a world without nuclear weapons” in a speech made in Prague four years ago.

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui reacted favorably to Mr. Obama’s remarks in Berlin. “His speech conveyed determination in calling for a world without nuclear arms, so I welcome it,” the mayor said. “I hope that the president will continue to display strong leadership when it comes to the abolition of nuclear weapons.”

“We take a positive view of this reduction plan,” said Toshiyuki Mimaki, secretary-general of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations, chaired by Sunao Tsuboi. Mr. Mimaki added: “But even small numbers of nuclear weapons can pose a threat. We hope he will take the lead in advancing the total abolition of nuclear weapons.”

The United States has been conducting a new generation of nuclear tests to verify the performance of its nuclear arsenal. Kazuo Okoshi, secretary-general of the other faction of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations, chaired by Kazushi Kaneko, stressed, “Even if the number of nuclear weapons is reduced, it makes no difference if the nuclear powers are working to strengthen the performance of the nuclear arms they already possess.” Haruko Moritaki, co-chair of the citizens’ group Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, also expressed doubt, saying, “We can’t assess the president’s words until specific policies are seen.”

The new reduction plan proposed by Mr. Obama would not consist of unilateral reductions by the United States; Russia, too, must agree to reduce their nuclear arsenal in a comparable fashion. Noriko Sado, an associate professor at Hiroshima Shudo University and an expert on international security, pointed out, “It’s vital to get other nuclear weapon states involved, too, not simply the United States and Russia. Unless we overcome the thinking that security must be maintained through nuclear weapons, nothing we do will lead to nuclear abolition.”

(Originally published on June 20, 2013)