Succession of statements on path to the elimination of nuclear weapons

by Noritaka Egusa, Editor/Senior Staff Writer

One after another world leaders have expressed their obligation to take action in an effort to eliminate nuclear weapons. In a speech at United Nations headquarters in September, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama pledged that “as the only victim of nuclear bombings …Japan should take the lead in the pursuit of the elimination of nuclear weapons.”

Knowledgeable people also continue to offer recommendations on how to ensure nuclear abolition. On October 17 the final meeting of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND), an initiative of the governments of Japan and Australia, will open in Hiroshima. The focus will be on how valuable a report the group can produce after its members’ visit the site of an atomic bombing. The final report is scheduled to be completed within the year.

The path to the elimination of nuclear weapons will require bold resolutions by leaders and the implementation of concrete, effective measures. In this report, the Chugoku Shimbun looks at this issue from the perspective of the statements of three leaders and the recommendations of three groups, including the draft reports of the ICNND.

A key element of Hatoyama’s speech at a special summit of the United Nations Security Council was his declaration that “as the only victim of nuclear bombings …Japan should take the lead in the pursuit of the elimination of nuclear weapons” as its “moral responsibility.” This statement parallels U.S. President Barack Obama’s pledge to work toward nuclear abolition in his historic speech in Prague  last April when he said, “…as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act.”

Hatoyama also stated clearly that Japan would not arm itself with nuclear weapons and would uphold its three non-nuclear principles. He closed his remarks by saying that nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation are the responsibility of all nations. In his call for efforts on a global scale he was also in tune with Obama who has said, “Human destiny will be what we make of it.”

Before these two leaders spoke out, Ban-ki Moon, secretary-general of the United Nations, issued a call for nuclear abolition, providing a strong impetus for action by the international community. At a meeting in New York last October he advocated “passive security” under which nuclear nations pledge not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear nations or threaten them with them. His reference to a treaty that would ban nuclear weapons by clearly outlawing their use was a breakthrough.

The outlawing of nuclear weapons and the reduction of their role are common themes in the declarations in favor of nuclear abolition issued by three groups of knowledgeable people from around the world.

Mayors for Peace, whose president is Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, has issued a “2020 Vision” advocating the abolition of nuclear weapons by the year 2020 and has outlined how to reach that goal in its Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol. This initiative advocates a treaty that would ban actions leading to the acquisition of new nuclear weapons or their use.

Global Zero, a group of influential figures that includes former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union, has called for the establishment of a framework for multilateral talks to ensure the abolition of nuclear weapons by 2030. The organization is promoting the ratification of a Global Zero agreement by both nuclear and non-nuclear nations.

On the other hand, the draft reports of the ICNND do not currently include a target year for nuclear abolition. The group’s philosophy is characterized by an effort to reach a “vantage point” from which the reality of nuclear abolition can be seen as soon as possible.

At the upcoming ICNND meeting to be held in Hiroshima the focus is likely to be on whether or not the organization will be able to incorporate the concept of “no first use” in its final report. Under this policy, which is intended to reduce the role of nuclear weapons, nuclear nations declare that, even if nuclear weapons are available for use in a counterattack, they will not be used in a preemptive strike. China has already declared a policy of no first use.

The Japanese government has thus far expressed reservations about the prospect of a U.S policy of no first use, saying it will weaken the effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear umbrella over Japan and may pose a threat to Japan’s security.

Meanwhile, at a press conference just after his appointment as foreign minister, Katsuya Okada outlined his own theory. “Ethically and from the standpoint of eliminating nuclear weapons, it is difficult to accept the first use of nuclear weapons,” he said. He also stated that it could be argued that the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear nations is a violation of the law.

Although the ICNND is independent of the government, there are growing expectations that the advent of a new administration in Japan will accelerate talks on abolition.

(Originally published October 5, 2009)

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