Meeting of “Group of Eminent Persons,” involved in nuclear abolition efforts, may be held in Hiroshima next year

by Michiko Tanaka and Kohei Okata, Staff Writers

On September 25, it was reported that the Japanese government is considering holding a meeting of the Group of Eminent Persons, established by the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), in the A-bombed city of Hiroshima in the second half of next year. This news was welcomed by people in Hiroshima, including officials of the City of Hiroshima and A-bomb survivors.

The CTBT was adopted at the United Nations General Assembly in 1996. To date, 183 countries have signed the treaty and, among them, 163 nations, including Japan, have ratified it. But ratification has not been realized by five countries, including the United States and China, and this has prevented the treaty from taking effect. In addition, North Korea, India, and Pakistan have not yet even signed the treaty. In these conditions, the Group of Eminent Persons, formed in September 2013 with such figures as former leaders of nations, has pursued efforts to help fulfill the treaty.

Sunao Tsuboi, 89, chair of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations, expressed his hopes for the Hiroshima conference of the Group of Eminent Persons, which would take place in the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing. “Making the treaty enter into force is a step toward the abolition of nuclear weapons,” he said. “I hope that the participants will act in earnest to move the discussion forward.”

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui also welcomed the news, saying, “I would be delighted if the idea becomes reality. I hope that the members will share their wisdom for realizing a ban on nuclear testing.” The mayor also indicated that he would call for the participants to visit Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and meet with A-bomb survivors. The City of Hiroshima is also bidding to host next year’s United Nations Disarmament Conference. Because the mayor has been appealing for world leaders to visit Hiroshima, he said he sees this development as a positive sign.

Kazuo Okoshi, 74, secretary general of the second Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations (headed by Kazushi Kaneko), reacted more cautiously, saying, “It would be desirable for the CTBT to enter into force, but looking at past developments, I’m afraid I can’t hold high hopes.” He continued, “As the ‘step-by-step approach for disarmament’ that the nuclear powers advocate has not moved forward, the international community has shifted its goal and now seeks a nuclear weapons convention. Under these circumstances, I think sticking to discussions involving the nuclear test ban isn’t aligned with the global trend.”

(Originally published on September 26, 2014)