Editorial: Nuclear abolition

Japan must not forget its duty

Would it be too much of an exaggeration to say that a cold wind is blowing through Hiroshima? Both in Japan and overseas the state of affairs regarding the abolition of nuclear weapons, the earnest wish of Hiroshima, remains bleak.

Locally, there is concern that the atomic bombing experience is being forgotten. This year will mark the 68th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb by the United States. The memories of the atomic bomb survivors remain fresh, but the fact remains that there are fewer opportunities to hear about their experiences directly from them.

For that very reason those memories must be passed on to all of us in the Hiroshima area and then shared with the international community. Everyone, including the younger generation, must think about how to bring about a world without nuclear weapons and then take action. Let us make 2013 the year in which we make that kind of new start.

The prime example of the unfavorable winds that are buffeting Hiroshima is the way of thinking that seeks to make nuclear weapons a deterrent.

During the House of Representatives election campaign at the end of last month, some people said Japan should consider arming itself with nuclear weapons. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which leans toward authorizing the exercise of the right to collective defense and changing Article 9 of the Constitution, scored a resounding victory and returned to power.

China is scrambling to become a military superpower, while North Korea has staked its very existence as a state on developing nuclear weapons. The series of assertions by the LDP apparently represents an attempt to keep these two nations in check.

But flaunting military might at each other may backfire and have an adverse effect on the region’s stability. Rather, each country must share a strong determination to bring about a nuclear weapons-free Northeast Asia.

In that sense, we would like to ponder the words of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In an interview with the Chugoku Shimbun he declared that he was “firm in his resolve to take the lead in the effort to bring about the abolition of nuclear weapons” and said he would “firmly uphold the three non-nuclear principles.”

We would like to see him put this into action and make the creation of a nuclear weapons-free zone in Northeast Asia one of the goals of his administration. This would also be a way to expand the three non-nuclear principles beyond Japan’s borders.

Another issue is Japan’s relations with the United States. Prime Minister Abe has said that he will rebuild the Japan-U.S. alliance. If that is the case, first of all it is essential that he express himself clearly.

The U.S. has put off ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and has continued to conduct sub-critical nuclear tests. There is no doubt that this outrageous behavior has given North Korea and Iran an excuse to proceed with the development of nuclear weapons.

Israel, a de facto nuclear power, has stated its willingness to launch a preemptive attack against Iran, and tensions are simmering in the Middle East.

What will U.S. President Obama, who has been reelected to a second term, do? The European Union, which has historically had close ties with the Middle East, also has a responsibility to build peace in the region. It must take action that demonstrates it was truly deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Providing support for these efforts is Japan’s responsibility. But the international community’s faith in this nation is merely being undermined by things such as last year’s refusal by the government to sign a joint statement recognizing the inhumanity of nuclear weapons.

Hiroshima’s leadership in the effort to abolish nuclear weapons will also be called into question.

Hiroshima Prefecture will sponsor a World Peace Concert this summer, sharing the role with the city of Hiroshima. We would like to make this event a good opportunity to enhance our ability to disseminate Hiroshima’s message of world peace.

We would also like to see another effort to invite President Obama and other world leaders to Hiroshima. If these policy-makers were to hear firsthand the accounts of atomic bomb survivors it would be a golden opportunity to remind them of the inhumanity of nuclear weapons.

In the aftermath of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 (Daiichi) nuclear power plant, we were reminded that Human beings cannot coexist with nuclear power or nuclear weapons. Ensuring that all of humankind shares this awareness is the first duty of Japan and of Hiroshima.

(Originally published on January 7, 2013)