NEW YORK – The world must fully understand the human toll of the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan to end nuclear proliferation around the globe, the chairman of a U.N. nuclear conference said Friday.
“I think the only way to get the world free of nuclear weapons is if every citizen of this world becomes a hibakusha in the mind,” Enrique Roman-Morey, the chairman of the final meeting before the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference, told reporters.
The Peruvian diplomat used the Japanese word to describe the A-bomb survivors.
Having been born right after the bombs exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, he emphasized the importance of listening to the personal stories of rapidly aging survivors in order to understand the humanitarian cost of the nuclear devices.
“I have been there (to Japan) and I have listened to the hibakusha,” he explained.
The issue of recognizing the humanitarian and environmental cost of the atomic bombs generated discussion in the two-week preparatory meeting that ended Friday.
The seasoned diplomat, who has spent his career in the disarmament field, led the preparatory meeting ahead of next year’s NPT review conference that takes place for a month next year.
The final meeting before the once-every-five-year gathering is meant to set the tone for the review conference.
The treaty, which came into force in 1970, serves as the world’s primary legal and political barriers against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Although the chair pressed for adoption of a set of 18 recommendations before the meeting ended, the gaps were too wide and the time too short to broach them.
In the end the recommendations were distributed as his working paper without the wider backing.
His recommendations centered on issues ranging from nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy — the treaty’s three pillars — to regional issues, including the Middle East and North Korea, as well as the treaty’s universality.
In the paper the nuclear weapons states, namely Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — countries that have signed the NPT — are called upon for “accelerated actions” to totally eliminate their nuclear arsenals.
The humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons are also highlighted with consideration given to new government and civil society proposals to achieve “a world free of nuclear weapons.”
“Serious concern” is also expressed about North Korea’s nuclear program and it is called upon to return to the NPT, which is withdrew from in 2003.
Many diplomats, including Toshio Sano, the Geneva-based Japanese ambassador for disarmament, spoke of the conducive atmosphere that was generated over the two weeks. It created a “constructive, forward-looking atmosphere” that “will pave the way to move onto next year’s review conference,” he said.
While Roman-Morey admits the goal of totally eliminating nuclear weapons is a difficult one to realize, he is passionately pursing that end by striving to work with countries to press for qualitative, not just quantitative, disarmament.
“The only thing that I can say is that we should never stop fighting (for total elimination),” he said.
Drawing on his roots as the son of a military man growing up in the post-World War II era, he still remembers his father’s words “never again” (to another Hiroshima) and the sentiment seems to guide him to this day.