NPDI ministerial meeting opens in Hiroshima: Heated debate on nuclear abolition at symposium

Government and NGO representatives fail to agree on legal ban

by Kohei Okata, Staff Writer

Participants in a symposium held in Hiroshima on April 11 in conjunction with the ministerial meeting of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) engaged in heated debate on how to abolish nuclear weapons by emphasizing their inhumanity. Representatives of the governments of Japan and Australia, which seek practical measures toward nuclear disarmament while remaining under the nuclear umbrella of the United States, failed to reach agreement with representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGO) that seek to outlaw nuclear weapons and are calling for a treaty banning them.

Eight people participated in the panel discussion. Peter Tesch, first assistant secretary of the International Security Division in Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, was making his first visit to Hiroshima. He said the city’s Peace Memorial Museum graphically illustrates the inhumanity of nuclear weapons and pointed out that even if agreement on a ban was reached, nuclear weapons would still exist. He emphasized Australia’s position that a world without nuclear weapons cannot be brought about without both idealism and pragmatism.

While noting that “no one understands the question of inhumanity better than Japan,” Toshio Sano, head of Japan’s delegation to the Conference on Disarmament, said that the fastest way to bring about disarmament was to strengthen the framework of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and take a series of practical measures.

While the governments of Japan and Australia advocated steady progress toward nuclear abolition, Susi Snyder, disarmament program manager for PAX, an international NGO in the Netherlands, rejected that rigid stance, saying that nuclear weapons must never be used again under any circumstances and that it was time to outlaw them. Akira Kawasaki, co-chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said, “The issue of nuclear weapons should be regarded not as a problem of a military balance between nations but as a problem of people.”

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui said, “There must be ongoing opportunities for world leaders to come to Hiroshima to see the reality of the atomic bombing for themselves.” The city has said it will take advantage of the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing in 2015 to make a genuine effort to invite United Nations agencies to establish branches in the city.

The symposium was sponsored by a council comprising various entities including Hiroshima Prefecture, the City of Hiroshima, and the Hiroshima Chamber of Commerce and Industry. About 470 members of the public attended.

Participants in the NPDI Ministerial Meeting

NPDI Member States
Australia: Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs
Canada: Mackenzie Clugston, Ambassador to Japan
Chile: Alfredo Labbé, Director General for Foreign Policy
Germany: Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal Foreign Minister
Japan: Fumio Kishida, foreign minister
Mexico: Claude Heller Rouassant, Ambassador to Japan
Netherlands: Frans Timmermans, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Nigeria: Godwin Nbude Agbo, Ambassador to Japan
Philippines: Albert F. Del Rosario, Secretary of Foreign Affairs
Poland: Artur Nowak-Far, Undersecretary of State
Turkey: Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs
United Arab Emirates: Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of State

Guest Speakers
Indonesia: Marty Natalegawa, Minister of Foreign Affairs (chair of the conference to promote ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty)
United States: Rose E. Gottemoeller, Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security
Peru: Enrique Armando Román-Morey, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Peru to Portugal (Chair of the Third Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference)

(Originally published on April 12, 2014)