Hiroshima Memo: The Keys to Promoting Nuclear Disarmament

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

"When I met you at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues in the city of Niigata a year ago, I had more hair and it was black, right?"

Libran Cabactulan, the Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations, began our conversation with these playful words. His gestures are animated by a small body which seems tightly packed with energy. His spirited way of speaking produces an influential spell on listeners.

Mr. Cabactulan, serving as president of the 2010 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, led the conference to a successful outcome. Not only did the political environment internationally, trending toward nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, provide a positive impact on the conference, but the ambassador's frank character and abundant energy surely played an important part in this success.

I spoke in a straightforward fashion, too, asking such questions: "Do you think the Japanese government fulfilled a role at the NPT Review Conference that was appropriate for the A-bombed nation?" "What are your thoughts on the gap between the Japanese government, which permits the U.S. nuclear umbrella, and the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which are calling for the government to abandon this umbrella?"

"It's difficult for me to answer these questions," replied Mr. Cabactulan. With a wry smile, he continued: "Even if I have an opinion, as a diplomat, I should refrain from making such remarks. Basically, the people of Japan must make these judgments." Mr. Cabactulan then stepped back from a formal statement, saying that he could not comment further unless he spoke "off the record."

On the other hand, Mr. Cabactulan revealed his strong appreciation of the role played by Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As to how Mayors for Peace, which has sought the elimination of nuclear weapons by 2020, should function in the future, he expressed his hopes, saying it was vital to continue appealing for nuclear abolition. Mr. Cabactulan also pointed to the challenges to be addressed by Mayors for Peace in order to expand its influence even more: "It is important to work with many organizations, including NGOs in the world, as well as increase the number of its member cities."

The final document unanimously adopted at the 2010 NPT Review Conference includes a 64-item action plan with the aim of promoting nuclear disarmament and enhancing nuclear non-proliferation. If all nuclear weapon states, including the nuclear weapon states that are not signatories to the NPT, along with non-nuclear weapon states, faithfully pursue efforts for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in line with the action plan, conditions for envisioning a time frame for nuclear abolition can be created for the next review conference in five years.

At the same time, resolving even one of the regional issues involving such areas as the Middle East, South Asia, and Northeast Asia remains a difficult task. In grappling with such challenges, Mr. Cabactulan stressed: "Dialogue and trust among the nations concerned, as well as a spirit of flexibility and compromise, are the keys to overcoming tough problems."

Mr. Cabactulan's words, based on his experience at the NPT Review Conference, were persuasive. I have high hopes that Mr. Cabactulan, who said, "As a U.N. ambassador, I would like to contribute to the cause of nuclear abolition in the future, too," will continue to play a leading role on the international stage.

(Originally published on September 6, 2010)

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Interview with Libran Cabactulan, Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations (Sept. 11, 2010)