Obama raises hopes in Hiroshima for nuclear disarmament

by Hiromi Morita, Staff Writer

Democratic candidate Barack Obama, who has pledged to pursue the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, has been elected the next president of the United States. The Chugoku Shimbun spoke with Hiroshi Oshima, law professor at Hiroshima Shudo University and former Kyodo News bureau chief in New York and Washington, where he reported on Barack Obama, about the prospects for nuclear disarmament under the Obama administration.

What are your impressions of the U.S. presidential race in 2008?
Discrimination still lingers in the U.S. so electing Barack Obama as the nation’s first African-American president is a historic moment. This outcome clearly showed that democracy at the grassroots level exists in America. The dynamism of the American people, who have called for change with the intention of creating a new country and have moved the nation in that direction with their votes, is very impressive.

President-elect Obama is the first leader to make clear that he is prepared to push for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Unlike the Bush administration, which expended energy on developing small-sized nuclear weapons with the premise that these weapons would be used, Obama has made the goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons a central element of his policy. He has made clear that he intends to work for nuclear disarmament--an obligation of the nuclear powers under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)--and for ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). He has also promised that he will never permit the U.S. to develop new nuclear weapons. On these matters, Obama speaks specifically and convincingly. If he puts his determination into action, nuclear disarmament will advance without fail. Democrats have also gained more seats in Congress so the groundwork for ratification has been laid.

People assume it would be difficult for the U.S. to change its nuclear policy.
Many pending issues in the U.S. will be tackled more urgently than nuclear issues. And Obama has little experience working with the U.S. military. So there are a number of challenges that must be faced before nuclear issues can be resolved. Obama, too, while revealing his intention to work for nuclear disarmament, has also expressed the need to retain nuclear deterrence, saying he will not reduce nuclear weapons unilaterally. However, if the Obama administration reaches out to other countries to build consensus about nuclear disarmament rather than taking a unilateral approach like the current Bush administration, this is an important step forward. Although a nuclear-free world cannot be attained overnight, the decisions of the U.S. president are crucial for its realization.

The citizens of Hiroshima are investing high hopes in Obama for greater momentum toward nuclear disarmament.
The new administration will view nuclear issues differently, and the U.S. will be more receptive to appeals for peace from the A-bombed city. To date, no matter how hard Hiroshima has been working for nuclear disarmament, its voice was only heard by a limited number of people. Under the new administration, however, more U.S. officials and citizens will recognize the significance of the effort made by the people of Hiroshima and work toward nuclear disarmament alongside us.

(Originally published on November 6, 2008)

Related articles
Column: President-elect Obama (Nov. 8, 2008)
Hiroshima holds high hopes for President-elect Obama (Nov. 7, 2008)
The U.S. presidential election and the fate of nuclear weapons abolition (Nov. 4, 2008)