Editorial: Abe and Hiroshima

Prime minister must act on his words

“Your wounds will never heal. We must not allow the inhumane consequences of the atomic bombing to be forgotten.” So said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the residents of a nursing home for atomic bomb survivors that he visited. That is absolutely right.

This was the first anniversary of the A-bombing since the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and New Komeito returned to power and Mr. Abe’s first Peace Memorial Ceremony as prime minister in six years. He was heard repeatedly expressing his resolve to abolish nuclear weapons, saying that the Japanese people “bear a responsibility to bring about a world without nuclear weapons without fail” and declaring that Japan will “spare no efforts in working towards the total abolition of nuclear weapons and the realization of eternal world peace.” He again professed his determination to “firmly uphold the Three Non-Nuclear Principles.”

These statements are all well and good. But from Hiroshima’s standpoint they also ring rather hollow, primarily because the current administration shows no signs of trying to get out from under the nuclear umbrella of the United States.

Compared to the administrations of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the prime minister has tilted even further toward the Japan-U.S. alliance. While this may be based on the administration’s China strategy, it takes the form of aligning with the theory of nuclear deterrence, which is adhered to by the U.S.

This in turn leads to regarding inhumane nuclear weapons as a necessary evil. This stance of the Japanese government was demonstrated in April when it declined to support a joint resolution on the inhumanity of nuclear weapons.

In addition to the fact that Japan is becoming a cog in U.S. strategy, when we consider the administration’s aggressive approach to revision of Article 9 of the Constitution and approval of the exercise of the right of collective defense, we worry about how serious the administration really is about abolishing nuclear weapons.

First of all, we would like the prime minister to take seriously the Peace Declaration that Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui delivered.

Mr. Matsui declared that nuclear weapons are inhumane and repudiated them as “an absolute evil.” He also characterized Hiroshima as “a place that embodies the grand pacifism of the Japanese constitution.” This can be said to encapsulate the feelings of Hiroshima over the years.

If the prime minister intends to put his words into action, just waving the flag of a nuclear disarmament resolution as in the past will not be good enough. The first high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on nuclear disarmament will be held in September. As stated in the mayor’s Peace Declaration, it is time for Japan to cooperate with other nations seeking nuclear abolition and tackle head on the matter of entering into negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

The wounds of the atomic bomb survivors have not healed. If we consider that, it naturally makes sense to seek enhanced relief measures as well.

With regard to the review of the certification system involving A-bomb diseases, the prime minister said yesterday that he had directed the Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare to submit its conclusions on an overhaul of the system within the year. At present nearly half of those who apply for A-bomb disease certification are turned down. An improvement in this situation would be welcome, but it is not clear how any gap between the government and the comprehensive relief package called for by the Japan Confederation of A- and H-bomb Sufferers Organizations and others can be bridged.

We are also concerned about the government’s apparent lack of interest in expanding the official “black rain” area. The government needs to take a more supportive stance toward Hiroshima.

We must not forget about Fukushima. The past two years, in their addresses at the Peace Memorial Ceremony the two prime ministers from the DPJ mentioned the accident at the nuclear power plant and nuclear energy policy, but Prime Minister Abe made no reference to either of them. If he was trying to avoid discussion of the issue amid the ongoing debate on restarting the nation’s nuclear reactors, that is unfortunate.

Mayor Matsui should also have addressed those issues in his Peace Declaration, but in fact he said even less than last year about the disaster of March 11, 2011. From the standpoint of nuclear non-proliferation, raising concerns about the negotiations between Japan and India on a nuclear energy agreement makes sense, but his thoughts on how Hiroshima should regard nuclear power were less clear this year.

The mayor of Namie and others from Fukushima Prefecture attended yesterday’s ceremony, and there was also a public meeting to which disaster victims were invited. Some people expressed concern that the disaster at the nuclear power plant, which is a long way from being cleaned up, is being forgotten. The significance of sounding a warning on the nuclear age based on both August 6 and March 11 can certainly be no less than before.

(Originally published on August 7, 2013)