International symposium is held: "Hiroshima Strives for Nuclear Abolition"

Panelists share views on the challenges involved in eliminating nuclear weapons,
focusing on Japan-U.S. relations and the situation in Northeast Asia.

In the run-up to the 2010 NPT Review Conference to be held next May at United Nations Headquarters in New York, an international symposium on strategies and challenges involved in achieving the abolition of nuclear weapons took place at the International Conference Center Hiroshima on December 5. The symposium was sponsored jointly by the Hiroshima Peace Institute of Hiroshima City University and the Hiroshima Peace Media Center of the Chugoku Shimbun. Experts from the United States, South Korea and Japan shared their views under the theme "Hiroshima Strives for Nuclear Abolition: Pursuing measures to energize the 2010 NPT Review Conference" with a special focus on current conditions in Northeast Asia. Over 250 Hiroshima citizens were in attendance.

Jonathan Granoff, president of the Global Security Institute, a U.S.-based NGO
Mr. Granoff is an attorney and author and known internationally as an advocate of peace. He also serves as senior advisor to the American Bar Association's Committee on Arms Control and National Security as well as vice president of the NGO Committee on Disarmament at the United Nations.
Jeong Se-Hyun, former minister of the Unification Ministry of South Korea
Mr. Jeong oversaw the rapprochement between South Korea and North Korea between January 2002 and June 2004. He played an important role in bring the North Korean nuclear issue into a framework for multilateral negotiations. Presently, Mr. Jeong serves as vice chairman of the Kim Dae-jung Peace Center.
Yoshiki Mine, former permanent representative and ambassador of Japan to the Conference on Disarmament
Mr. Mine has served as a distinguished research fellow at the Canon Institute for Global Studies since May 2009. Previously, he has served as chief representative of Japan for the Normalization Negotiations with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) and other posts.
Arthur Binard, poet
Mr. Binard has written the anthology "Tsuriagete wa" ("Catch and Release"), among other works. He moved from the United States to Japan in 1990.
Akira Tashiro, executive director of the Hiroshima Peace Media Center of the Chugoku Shimbun
Mr. Tashiro assumed the helm of the Hiroshima Peace Media Center in January 2008 after serving as chief writer in charge of the Atomic Bombing, Peace and International Affairs and other posts.

Kazumi Mizumoto, associate professor at the Hiroshima Peace Institute of Hiroshima City University
Mr. Mizumoto assumed his current post in 1998 after working as a newspaper reporter and in other roles. He specializes in international politics.

Keynote Speech

Jonathan Granoff: "For Reminding Us, Thank You, Hiroshima"

To the Hiroshima Peace Institute of Hiroshima City and Hiroshima Peace Media Center of the Chugoku Shimbum, please accept my gratitude for bringing us together here and for your service to advance greater understanding of the need to abolish nuclear weapons. It is a great honor to be here with my friend Mayor Akiba whose vision and passion has created the inspiring Mayors for Peace campaign. He represents a truly 21st century man--futuristic, visionary, inspiring, practical at both a local and global level, and integrated with his sense of inner peace.

Let us never forget that all external acts of violence begin with an inner state that violates our natural human capacity to live in harmony with nature and each other. May the peace we desire in this very fragile uncertain world emanate from the stability of hearts awake with compassion, love, courage, and proper respect for the sanctity of life. May we become the ones who carry the treasure of such hearts. Here in Hiroshima one can witness how from the ashes of horror a thriving, energetic, successful city has emerged. This reaffirms faith that such hearts are alive and well and can inspire the miraculous. Mayor Akiba and the initiative he has taken world-wide exemplifies this truth.

The people of Hiroshima and all of Japan have a moral right and duty to lead the world to a safer place. We will all benefit from following a proposition consistently expressed in many ways from this community: Nuclear weapons are inhumane and create a greater problem than any problem they seek to solve. Therefore, they must be abolished from the face of the earth.

Read entire speech.

Keynote speech (summary)

Jeong Se-Hyun: "An Accurate Understanding of North Korea's Motives is Vital"

The first step toward building a world free of nuclear weapons as well as energizing the NPT Review Conference involves resolving the North Korean nuclear issue. For this purpose, we need an accurate understanding of current conditions in North Korea and the logic behind its penchant for playing the "nuclear card."

North Korea's motives are clear from the September 2005 joint statement of the six-party talks involving the U.S., China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, and North Korea. In this statement, North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for these guarantees: 1) normalized relations with the United States and Japan, 2) energy and economic assistance from the other five nations, and 3) discussions for a peace pact with the countries concerned.

This means, above economic assistance, North Korea seeks the recognition of its regime from the U.S. and Japan. When this recognition is granted, and normalized relations are assured, North Korea will abandon its nuclear program.

The Bush administration tried to induce North Korea's compliance through coercion and sanctions, a strategy which ended in failure when North Korea walked out of the denuclearization negotiations. During this unproductive period, North Korea succeeded in conducting nuclear tests and developing its nuclear capability.

Presently, though, on a number of occasions, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has touched upon the idea of normalized relations and a peace accord in exchange for North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons program. If the Obama administration pursues a solution in this direction, the roadmap to resolving the North Korean nuclear issue might be crafted by next year's NPT Review Conference.

The Hatoyama administration should be willing to work hard to normalize relations with North Korea first rather than arguing that this cannot happen until the abduction issue is resolved. Furthermore, if Japan urges the U.S. to adopt "Negative Security Assurances," this will give impetus to the Obama administration's policy of resolving the North Korean nuclear issue, bringing about the denuclearization process in East Asia. Japan has the historical rationale and as well as the capability to help build a nuclear-free world.

Read entire speech in Korean.

Panel Discussion

U.S. nuclear policy

Mr. Mizumoto: What are your thoughts on the nuclear policy of the United States, the largest nuclear superpower?

Mr. Granoff: So far, the U.S. has spent over $5.7 trillion in nuclear development. It spent as much as $50 billion in the last year alone, more than $130 million per day. Meanwhile, the annual budget for inspection at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is $120 million. If the budget allocation for the U.S. nuclear policy was exchanged with that granted for IAEA inspection, a more thorough inspection by the IAEA would be possible.

Mr. Mine: At the 2000 NPT Review Conference, the U.S. agreed to the "unequivocal pledge" to abolish nuclear weapons. However, the Bush administration rejected this pledge. I think one of the focal points of the Obama administration is whether this pledge will be restored.

Mr. Binard: In the U.S., where I was born and raised, I was taught that the atomic bombings saved the lives of one million American soldiers. What I didn't understand, though, was why the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb twice.

My understanding about the atomic bombings changed when I was researching the incident involving the fishing boat Daigo Fukuryu Maru (Lucky Dragon No. 5). The crew of the ship witnessed a U.S. hydrogen bomb test and were exposed to the so-called "ashes of death," the radioactive fallout, on the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. Despite encountering this top secret project, they were able to make it back to Japan without being detained by the U.S. Why is that?

From my research, it seems the crew did not use the ship's radio out of fear that the transmission might be intercepted. They bottled some of the radioactive fallout and carefully brought it back to Japan. Those men were heroes. But in almost all the material I read, they were just referred to as "poor victims." Under the circumstances, they will be easily forgotten. We should consider how to pass on their story.

Mr. Granoff: I'm afraid most Americans think possessing nuclear weapons is okay as long as they do not fall into enemy hands. They aren't aware that the U.S. still deploys nuclear weapons that are aimed at Russia, in the event of an emergency. Psychologically, Americans avoid dealing with nuclear issues and they don't really know much about them.

Mr. Mizumoto: In the shift from nuclear disarmament to nuclear abolition, what course should the world take?

Mr. Granoff: It's patently immoral for nuclear weapon states to use their weapons against non-nuclear weapon states. "Negative Security Assurances," which stipulate that nuclear weapons will not be used against non-nuclear states are very important. Nuclear abolition cannot be achieved overnight. It must be advanced in structured ways.

Japan should not sit by quietly. Closing the U.S. nuclear umbrella could jump-start the effort. The length of a soccer game is 90 minutes; however, there are only about 15 seconds to get off a good shot at the goal. Now is the time.

Mr. Binard: I also sometimes find myself irritated at the Japanese government's attitude. If Japan had told the world to "wait a minute" before launching the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the outcome could have been different. Like that soccer game, Japan is reluctant to jump in at the right moment, saying the U.S. is holding the ball.

The Hatoyama administration

Mr. Mizumoto: The actions taken by the new Japanese administration will be a key factor in advancing the cause of nuclear abolition.

Mr. Jeong: The new administration must respond to those in Japan who argue that the nuclear umbrella is necessary and find a way to move the agenda forward for abolition. Once the administration grasps the right approach, the pace toward the goal of nuclear abolition may accelerate. The key for the U.S., which dropped the atomic bombs, and Japan, which suffered the bombings, is to work together to contain the voices of conservatives and militarists of Japan.

Mr. Tashiro: From the perspective of Hiroshima, the no-first-use declaration and the Negative Security Assurances should be realized immediately, which is feasible. Weapons of indiscriminate mass destruction are inhuman weapons and should be abolished. To protect our planet, the abolition of nuclear weapons should be considered an issue like global warming, water, food, and the growing global population.

Mr. Binard: I would like to convey what Hiroshima and Nagasaki mean to the world in my own way. I would like to convey the role that the A-bombed cities have played. Nuclear weapons were created by human beings and they can be eliminated through the efforts of human beings. It should be much easier to resolve this issue compared with environmental issues.

Mr. Mizumoto: We would also like to hear the view of Robert Gray, the former U.S. Representative to the Conference on Disarmament, who is in attendance.

Mr. Gray: If the Bush era is thought of as the "Dark Ages," the time we have entered is a kind of "Renaissance." Those protected by the nuclear umbrella should tell the U.S. whether they want to stay the course or move toward the abolition of nuclear weapons. I would like the Japanese people to guide their government in the right direction and support the Obama administration, which is seeking a nuclear-free world.

Mr. Tashiro: When we consider what can be done to eliminate nuclear weapons, I feel Hiroshima must fulfill the expectations placed on it to act. There are less than six months until the NPT Review Conference. During this period, we should raise our voices to encourage the Hatoyama administration to take concrete measures for nuclear abolition. And first, we should get out from under the nuclear umbrella.

The Korean Peninsula

Mr. Mizumoto: The nuclear umbrella now covers South Korea. What are your thoughts on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the nuclear issue of North Korea?

Mr. Jeong: South Korea has not concluded the accord to end the Korean War. The South-North Summit Joint Declaration issued in October 2007 stipulated the importance of completing this official accord. Such a move would encourage North Korea to scrap its nuclear program. If we diagnose the problem properly and prescribe appropriate action, I believe we will soon see positive results.

People in attendance listen to the discussion.

Human rights issues, including the abduction issue, should also be resolved. But if the present approach of mixing these issues with the nuclear issue remains, I suspect the NPT will not be enhanced and a world without nuclear weapons will not be created.

Mr. Mine: I wonder if North Korea will return to the six-party talks or not. North Korea has already conducted two nuclear tests and launched Taepodong missiles. We must squarely face the fact that the six-party talks have made little headway. The U.S. has maintained the stance that it will attack North Korea with nuclear weapons if the situation requires. Unless the U.S. changes this policy, the North Korean regime has no guarantee of its security and so these problems will never be resolved.

Mr. Jeong: Since my arrival in Hiroshima, I have keenly felt the sincere desire of the citizens of Hiroshima for the elimination of nuclear weapons. To realize the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, it is essential to move toward normalizing diplomatic relations between Japan and North Korea. If Japan shows that it is serious about improving relations with North Korea, the country will respond accordingly. This stance would help support President Obama in his pursuit of the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Mr. Mine: In Japan, the abduction issue has drawn considerable attention from the public. As a result, the Japanese government has persistently stated that it will approach North Korea with "pressure and dialogue." But I don't think the approach is working. I don't think it's constructive.

When Japan normalized diplomatic relations with China, there was already an active exchange of citizens between the two nations. In addition, Japanese diplomacy worked well in setting the stage for this normalization. To normalize ties with North Korea, I believe the key for both countries involves making progress in laying the ground for such a breakthrough.

Mr. Tashiro: If a North Korean nuclear arsenal is condoned, the world will never be able to eliminate nuclear weapons. Though the U.S. holds the key to this situation, Japan's leadership is also essential. The A-bombed nation of Japan should undertake proactive efforts for the denuclearization of Northeast Asia, leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons on a global scale. To advance this cause, the actions of ordinary citizens are vital in applying pressure to the Japanese government.

High school students present their campaign aimed at encouraging U.S. President Obama to Hiroshima

Two high school students who are members of the "No Nuke Network: Students of Hiroshima Against Nuclear Weapons," a students' group seeking the abolition of nuclear weapons, presented their campaign aimed at encouraging U.S. President Barack Obama to visit Hiroshima.

Yuji Kanemori, 17, a second-year student at Hiroshima Gakuin High School, and Yuki Okada, 16, a first-year student at Shudo High School, outlined the objective of their activities, saying, "We hope that President Obama will sense the desire of Hiroshima citizens for the abolition of nuclear weapons." They also called for the people attending the symposium to support their effort by folding paper cranes that they intend to deliver to the president.

The two students also shared their experience of writing a joint peace declaration with a group of high school students in Nagasaki. Plainly showing their determination to lead the next generation in the A-bombed cities, they said, "Junior high and senior high school students of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will work together to convey the message of the A-bombed cities to the world."

Introducing the efforts of "Peace Seeds"

On the back walls of the symposium venue was a display sharing information and articles in connection with "Peace Seeds," a peace newspaper produced by teens in Hiroshima. Peace Seeds appears twice a month as an insert in the Chugoku Shimbun.

A total of 21 panels were mounted on the walls, including large panels with the first edition of January 29, 2007 as well as features on August 6, in both 2007 and 2008, in which the junior writers of "Peace Seeds" covered the anniversary of the atomic bombing at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

After the symposium, Arthur Binard, a poet and one of the panelists for the symposium, studied the panels and appeared impressed. "It's important for the students to pursue this coverage with their own heartfelt questions," he said. "Their efforts may inspire adults to take action, too."

(Originally published on December 9, 2009)

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