Approaching Nuclear Abolition from Hiroshima: Empowering the World to Impact the 2010 NPT Review Conference

Panelists discuss the path to nuclear abolition.

Over 400 people attended an international symposium on the subject of “Approaching Nuclear Abolition from Hiroshima” at the International Conference Center Hiroshima on August 2. The event was jointly sponsored by the Chugoku Shimbun and the Hiroshima Peace Institute. Jayantha Dhanapala, president of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs and former Undersecretary General of the United Nations in charge of disarmament, was among the five panelists from Japan and overseas. Akira Kawasaki, Executive Committee Member of Peace Boat, was also a panelist. The symposium included a report on the global state of nuclear weapons and panelists discussed the importance of the role that citizens and cities should play in anticipation of the upcoming review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2010. Reports on peace-related activities by young people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were also presented.

Mr. Dhanapala delivered the first keynote speech, Energizing Global Civil Society for Nuclear Disarmament, and was followed by Rebecca Johnson, Executive Director of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, who presented the second keynote address, From Nonproliferation to a World Free of Nuclear Weapons.

The subsequent panel discussion then included Mr. Dhanapala, Ms. Johnson, and Mr. Kawasaki as well as Steven Leeper, Chairman of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, and Akira Tashiro, Executive Director of the Hiroshima Peace Media Center. Kazumi Mizumoto, Associate Professor of the Hiroshima Peace Institute, Hiroshima City University, served as moderator.

The following are excerpts from the discussion.

Moving beyond nuclear deterrence

Mizumoto: First, I’d like to ask about the results of the survey the Chugoku Shimbun conducted on its website.

Tashiro: From mid-May through late June the Hiroshima Peace Media Center conducted a survey on nuclear weapons on its website. We received responses from 210 people in 18 countries. While only 9% of respondents overseas said nuclear abolition was impossible, 40% of respondents in Japan said so. With regard to deterrence as well, more respondents in Japan than overseas felt it was effective.

Kawasaki: Despite the fact there is no evidence to support it, people in Japan believe in the nuclear deterrence theory. In order to safeguard its security, Japan has the misguided notion that it can give the U.S. the option of using nuclear weapons while not possessing them itself.

Johnson: In both Japan and the U.K., the government talks a good game, but meanwhile the U.K. is moving to update its nuclear strategy system and continues to be a nuclear nation while Japan has not resolved to get out from under the nuclear umbrella. In terms of cost, as well as psychological impact, the fallacy of nuclear deterrence theory must be exposed. Why do many people in Japan believe in deterrence theory?

Tashiro: There are various factors behind the belief of Japanese people in the theory of nuclear deterrence including North Korea’s nuclear development and the abduction issue as well as the threat from China.

Kawasaki: The signing of a treaty creating a nuclear-free zone in northeast Asia will be the decisive factor in eliminating that threat. The question is: Will Japan take the first step toward a treaty that ensures that the nation itself will not allow others to use nuclear weapons in the region? Or will Japan continue to remain under the nuclear umbrella of the U.S.?

Leeper: Sixty-three years have passed since the atomic bombings, yet many people feel that the abolition of nuclear weapons is impossible. If we do not abolish nuclear weapons now, many countries may acquire them. On the other hand, we are at the point at which nuclear weapons can actually be abolished with just a little more effort. We need to convey this information to more people.

Eyeing the NPT Review Conference

Mizumoto: What kind of measures need to be taken in anticipation of the upcoming review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2010?

Leeper: At a meeting of the preparatory committee for the NPT review conference held in Geneva in April, Mayors for Peace announced their Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol. They plan to put this protocol forward at the NPT review conference in 2010 and work toward the abolition of nuclear weapons by 2020 in conjunction with the U.N.’s Fourth Disarmament Decade, also getting underway in 2010.

Dhanapala: I served as president of the review conference in 1995. It was a very difficult conference, because we were compelled to agree to the indefinite extension of the treaty. People are fed up with mere promises of nuclear disarmament; they want attainable targets.

Johnson: The nuclear nations are trying to prevent nuclear proliferation without giving consideration to the elimination of the nuclear weapons they themselves possess. Even-handed nuclear abolition is the most feasible form of security.

Leeper: The problem of nuclear weapons is primarily discussed within the framework of the NPT. But there are no other proposals for actions and a deadline to bring about a nuclear-free world like this protocol. I hope this campaign will spread widely in order to make the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol as well known throughout the world as the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

Tashiro: Every year at a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly the Japanese government puts forth a resolution for the abolition of nuclear weapons, but the government has not taken a sufficiently proactive stance at previous NPT review conferences. Perhaps this is out of consideration for the U.S., but as an A-bombed nation Japan must exercise its initiative to bring about both nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

Kawasaki: It is important not only to focus on the review conference two years from now but also to look at the present situation and policies. The U.S. and India, which is not a signatory to the NPT, are about to sign an agreement on nuclear power cooperation. The international community criticized India, which acquired nuclear weapons outside the framework of an international agreement. But the U.S. is expressing its acceptance of that. The citizens of Japan need to look at the global situation as well and urge the government to act.

Dhanapala: It must be pointed out that the United States is weakening the effectiveness of the NPT. It must be recognized that those who violate the NPT should not be allowed to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Audience members listen to the panel discussion.

Role of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Japan

Mizumoto: What role do you feel the A-bombed cities and Japan should play in nuclear abolition?

Kawasaki: A movement has begun to use Article 9 of Japan’s constitution as a mechanism for world peace in the 21st Century. The promotion of this effort is the role the people of Japan must play in nuclear abolition. Global military expenditures have soared since the terrorist attacks in the U.S. in 2001 and were more than $1.3 trillion in 2007, the highest level since the end of the Cold War. This is why attention is being focused on transferring resources from the military to civilian purposes and on Article 9, which calls for the prevention and peaceful resolution of conflicts.

Dhanapala: While it has a peace constitution, Japan spends about $43 billion (approximately 4.63 trillion) annually on military expenditures, fifth in the world. I would like the people of Japan to look at this reality.

Leeper: The actions taken by the Japanese government will be the key to the success of the review conference. Japan is the only A-bombed country as well as an ally of the U.S. If Japan says, “You must abolish nuclear weapons,” it may be possible to spur the U.S. to action. The U.S. is on the verge of economic collapse. Japan has loaned the U.S. more money than any other country. Although Japan has tremendous influence over the U.S., it is not using that influence at all. The people of Japan have a big responsibility.

Tashiro: The lesson of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is that international issues cannot be resolved with military might. The human race must take a bold step toward the abolition of nuclear weapons now. If this is not done, not only will we not be able to halt nuclear proliferation, it is highly likely that a nuclear war will occur someday. What is required of all of us, including the members of the Diet, who are involved in policy-making, is a new way of thinking so we can take that first step.

Kawasaki: It is also important that people not be allowed to forget about the bombings. At the same time we need to make use of what was gained from that experience and consider creating global laws, mechanisms and standards. The news media and researchers have a large role in this.

Tashiro: On September 2, the G8 Summit of Lower House Speakers will be held in Hiroshima. The countries of four of the participating lower house speakers have nuclear weapons. I would like to clearly convey the fervor of the citizens of Hiroshima to the influential political leaders in each of those countries.

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