Hiroshima Memo: Each vote in the Lower House election will help determine Japan’s nuclear policy

by Akira Tashiro, Executive Director of the Hiroshima Peace Media Center

“We call on the citizens of the world to press their leaders to grasp the peril of inaction and summon the political will to advance toward nuclear disarmament and abolition.”

This statement is from the “Hiroshima-Nagasaki Declaration of Nobel Peace Laureates,” issued by 17 Nobel Peace Prize laureates and released in print by the Chugoku Shimbun and on the web by the Hiroshima Peace Media Center on May 18. “Leaders” refers to all lawmakers involved in the national politics of the countries of the world as well as their prime ministers and presidents. To “press their leaders” toward this end, the first step for citizens involves selecting suitable candidates in elections.

In Japan, this opportunity looms very soon, on August 30. With problems now mounting that impinge directly on our daily lives, including the national pension system, the health care system, and the economy, the issues of diplomacy and security policy tend to receive less attention. However, as the most fundamental task facing politicians is said to be steering the nation to avoid war, how to maintain a peaceful coexistence with other countries in the world, including Japan’s neighbors, will always be the highest priority.

As the only nation to have suffered nuclear attack, what sort of initiative should Japan take to help end the perilous nuclear era? The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which know the ruin wrought by nuclear weapons firsthand, have long been opposed to the idea of nuclear deterrence from the point of view that these weapons are profoundly evil. It is time Japan embarked on establishing a new U.S.-Japan alliance, one where Japan does not rely on the U.S. nuclear umbrella, as well as a security arrangement that includes the other nations of Asia.

South Africa is the only country is the world to have dismantled all the nuclear warheads that it produced. Then President F W de Klerk is reported to have made the decision to scrap the nation’s nuclear arms after concluding, based on his experience, that a security agreement reached through negotiation with neighboring countries “would provide a far better chance of long-term security for all South Africans” than nuclear weapons or military force could ever achieve.

This is a good example of thinking outside the traditional paradigm regarding the problem of nuclear weapons. In the “Hiroshima-Nagasaki Declaration,” the need for a new manner of thinking, to replace the idea of nuclear deterrence which does nothing but breed nuclear proliferation and thwart nuclear disarmament, is underscored.

With the election in the Lower House approaching, each party has issued its platform of policies, its “manifesto.” Which platform could best respond to the appeal made by the Nobel Peace laureates and contribute to fulfilling the vision of U.S. President Barack Obama, who has clearly expressed his commitment to creating “a world without nuclear weapons”? Lawmakers from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in particular, have a vital responsibility to work for nuclear disarmament and the abolition of nuclear weapons. Which party and candidates should the voters entrust with this responsibility? In this context, each person’s vote has special significance.

(Originally published on August 18, 2009)

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