Hiroshima mayor avoids calling for ratification of nuclear treaty in Peace Declaration

by Yusuke Egawa, Kyosuke Mizukawa, and Kyoko Niiyama, Staff Writers

On August 6, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui avoided calling on the Japanese government to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in the Peace Declaration he delivered at the annual Peace Memorial Ceremony. He did not make this call in last year’s declaration, either. With the City of Nagasaki expected to make an explicit call for the Japanese government to support the treaty in the Nagasaki mayor’s Peace Declaration on August 9, the anniversary of the A-bombing of that city, A-bomb survivors expressed disappointment over Mr. Matsui’s speech.

In his Peace Declaration, the Hiroshima mayor appealed to the Japanese government, which remains opposed to the treaty, by saying, “I ask the Japanese government to manifest the magnificent pacifism of the Japanese Constitution in the movement toward the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by playing its proper role, leading the international community toward dialogue and cooperation for a world without nuclear weapons.” The Japanese government has repeatedly said that it would serve as a mediator for nuclear disarmament by facilitating dialogue between the nuclear nations and non-nuclear nations. Mr. Matsui’s request was largely aligned with the national government’s policy.

“It was a lukewarm speech. The Peace Declaration has become more pro-government to support the government’s policy,” said Sunao Tsuboi, 93, the chair of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hiroshima Hidankyo), expressing his concern. Kunihiko Sakuma, 73, the chair of the other Hiroshima Hidankyo, said firmly, “How the people of Hiroshima perceive the treaty could be called into question.”

The survivors’ dismay has deepened over the fact that the Peace Declaration by the mayor of Nagasaki is more forthright. In his speech last year, Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue said that he would like to refer to the treaty as “The Hiroshima-Nagasaki Treaty,” and he called on the Japanese government to join the treaty at the earliest possible opportunity. At a press conference held at the end of July, Mr. Taue said that he would again call on the government to support the treaty in this year’s Peace Declaration.

Why doesn’t the mayor of Hiroshima make the same appeal in his speech? At a press conference held on August 1, Mr. Matsui explained that the direction which the government should take is obvious. A senior official of the city government commented on Mr. Matsui’s intent, saying, “It would be more beneficial to ask the government to properly implement the policy that it has already declared, rather than getting into a conflict over ratifying the treaty.”

Meanwhile, some have also given credit to Mr. Matsui’s speech, which forcefully criticized the nation’s policy of nuclear deterrence against the backdrop of the Japanese government’s efforts to argue more strongly for the necessity of the U.S. nuclear umbrella, which it says is the reason for its opposition to the treaty. Akira Kawasaki, 49, a member of the international steering committee of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a non-governmental organization (NGO), stressed that the mayor’s declaration had restated the fact that peace guaranteed by nuclear force is unrealistic given the actual conditions of the atomic bombing.

(Originally published on August 7, 2018)