Editorial: Obama’s second term

Another attempt must be made to bring about “a world without nuclear weapons”

During his second inaugural address U.S. President Barack Obama called on Americans to unite to overcome the challenges the nation faces repeatedly stating, “Our journey is not complete.”

This is another way of saying that the U.S. is still on the road to achieving the change that the president called for in his first inaugural address. For the president, whose support has shown little growth, his ability to bring about change will continue to be called into question over the next four years.

One point in his speech that attracted attention was his statement that “America's prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class.” We agree that economic recovery must be achieved by raising the level of everyone, not just some of the wealthy.

How can a reduction of the budget deficit be balanced with economic recovery? This is one area where Mr. Obama will have to demonstrate his ability. Can he set an example for Japan and other countries that share the same challenges faced by the U.S.?

In his inaugural address the president alluded to the need for gun control legislation and spoke of the government’s response to climate change, immigration reform and the promotion of the rights of homosexuals. In doing so, he brought up issues that divide the nation and conveyed to Americans and to the world his determination to address them.

With regard to diplomacy, the president said the U.S. would “show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully,” indicating an emphasis on dialogue. Nevertheless, overall his remarks on foreign affairs were abstract and lacked substance compared to his statements on domestic affairs.

In Mr. Obama’s second term, John Kerry, a Democratic Party heavyweight who is well informed on Asia, will serve as Secretary of State, while Chuck Hagel, a Republican and former Senator, will be named Secretary of Defense. This is part of Obama’s effort to transcend party lines and appoint moderates. It also suggests that he plans to give shape to the focus on the Asia-Pacific region that he mapped out in his first term.

With the ongoing tensions with China over the issue of the Senkaku Islands, the course of U.S. relations with China is a matter of concern for Japan. In terms of personnel, it appears that the U.S. is trying to broaden the channels of communication with China while adopting a carrot-and-stick approach in its diplomacy with that nation.

Even without the president saying so, solving various issues between nations merely by flaunting power will clearly be difficult, especially because, in light of its financial circumstances, the U.S. will be compelled to cut its defense spending.

Meanwhile the hostage crisis in Algeria has made it plain that the world is still facing a “war on terror.” In that sense as well, whether or not the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, a goal of the Obama administration, goes well will be a key point.

And what about putting an end to the nuclear development programs of Iran and North Korea and ensuring that nuclear weapons do not fall into the hands of terrorists? The actions of the U.S., a nuclear superpower, will have a major effect on these issues.

From Hiroshima’s point of view, we would like the president to get back to the spirit of the speech he delivered in Prague in 2009.

Though the president stated positively that “as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act,” the U.S has not only failed to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, it has carried out several subcritical nuclear tests. It is hard not to feel that the luster the president had at the time of his Prague speech has dulled.

A world without nuclear weapons is clearly a long way off. Unfortunately, if the U.S. does not take the initiative and act, nuclear disarmament will not go anywhere either. The U.S. must not forget its moral responsibility.

Giving the U.S. a push is the role of its allies. Rather than continuing to rely on the nuclear deterrence of the U.S. to ensure peace in the region, Japan must consider how to go about creating a nuclear weapon-free zone in Northeast Asia. There must be more in-depth discussions on this issue that include South Korea, another ally of the U.S.

We would like Mr. Obama, the leader of the nation that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan, to consider visiting Hiroshima during his second term. That would be a big step on humankind’s journey toward the abolition of nuclear weapons.

(Originally published on January 23, 2013)