Hiroshima Peace Declaration, on 73rd anniversary of A-bombing, calls for nuclear-free world

by Kanako Noda, Staff Writer

On August 6, Hiroshima observed the 73rd anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city with the annual Peace Memorial Ceremony in the Peace Memorial Park. During the ceremony, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui read out his Peace Declaration, calling on the Japanese government to lead the international community toward dialogue and cooperation so that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons can enter into force. He did not, however, make a direct request to the government to ratify the treaty. At a press conference after the ceremony, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated once again that Japan does not intend to join the treaty.

When the treaty was adopted in July of last year, A-bomb survivors and Hiroshima residents felt high hopes, but the effectuation of the treaty is still far off. The Japanese government, which relies on the U.S. nuclear umbrella for the nation’s security, has maintained its opposition to the treaty. Mr. Matsui stressed that world leaders must strive to make the treaty “a milestone along the path to a nuclear-weapon-free world.” He called on the Japanese government to lead the international community, implying that it should sign and ratify the treaty.

Mr. Matsui also referred to last year’s Nobel Peace Prize. In December, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a nongovernmental organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, was awarded the prize for its contribution to the establishment of the treaty. The mayor said that “the spirit of hibakusha is spreading through the world.” At the same time, he expressed his concerns about the rise of “self-centered nationalism” and the modernization of nuclear arsenals, which could rekindle the tensions of the Cold War era. He said that leaders around the world must continue taking intelligent actions for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

In his speech, Mr. Abe stated that “Japan has a mission” to work to bring about a world free of nuclear weapons, but he did not refer to the treaty either in this year’s or last year’s speech. At a press conference after the ceremony, the prime minister once again said that Japan would not support the treaty, stressing that the nation would become a bridge between the nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon countries and help rebuild relationships of trust.

This year’s Peace Memorial Ceremony was the last of the Heisei Era, which will conclude at the end of April of next year, and was attended by about 50,000 people. U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty attended the ceremony for the first time since President Donald Trump took office, becoming the first U.S. ambassador to Japan to attend the ceremony in three years. Also present were representatives from 85 nations including the United States and the European Union (EU), along with 40 family members of the victims from various prefectures.

At 8:15 a.m., the time the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, all the participants offered a silent prayer at the sound of the Peace Bell tolled by a representative of the victims’ families and a children’s representative. Two sixth graders read out the Commitment to Peace, saying, “Learning what happened 73 years ago and how the hibakusha feel, what we learn and feel in our hearts we will pass on.” The register of the A-bomb victims was placed in the stone chest beneath the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims. The names of 5,393 people, who died or were confirmed dead during the past year, were added to the register. The register now consists of 115 volumes and contains the names of 314,118 victims.

Summary of the Peace Declaration

・Today, with more than 14,000 nuclear warheads remaining, the likelihood is growing that what we saw in Hiroshima after the explosion that day will return, plunging people into agony. The hibakusha are ringing an alarm against the temptation to possess nuclear weapons. Listening to hibakusha grows ever more crucial.

・The Nobel Peace Prize went to ICAN, and the spirit of the hibakusha is spreading through the world. On the other hand, self-centered nationalism has been on the rise and nuclear arsenals have been modernized. Efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons must continue based on intelligent actions by leaders around the world.

・World leaders must strive to make the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons a milestone along the path to a nuclear-weapon-free world. The Japanese government, in the movement toward the entry into force of the treaty, should play its role of leading the international community toward dialogue and cooperation.

・Civil society hopes that the easing of tensions on the Korean Peninsula will proceed through peaceable dialogue. Civil society will focus on creating an environment where the abolition of nuclear weapons is a value shared by all humankind.

(Originally published on August 7, 2018)