Staff writer

When he first visited Japan in 1963, David Krieger, an antinuclear activist, was struck by the difference between the U.S. and Japanese portrayals of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings.

No people are pictured at the Atomic Bomb Museum in New Mexico, the founder and president of the California-based nongovernmental organization Nuclear Age Peace Foundation said.

He saw photographs of the bombs and the planes, but that was all. The message was simple: “The United States developed these bombs. They dropped them on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and won the war,” he said. “So the lesson for people in the United States is: nuclear weapons win wars.”

But in Japan, he saw the victims — incinerated or melted into shadows on the walls. Just as those images “completely changed” his perspective, Krieger hopes Japanese diplomacy will do more to persuade the U.S. to eliminate its nuclear arsenal.

Krieger was recently in Japan to garner support for the “New Agenda” resolution, to be submitted to the full United Nations General Assembly early next month by a coalition of 29 countries calling for nuclear-weapons states to take action toward speedy and total nuclear disarmament.

Krieger said he was discouraged by a “lukewarm” response from some Japanese government officials, who refused to question the perceived role of Japan as a “junior partner” to the U.S.

The U.S. Senate’s failure to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty last month gives Japan an added reason to pursue a foreign policy agenda that differs from that of the U.S., he said.

Although all five declared nuclear powers have signed the treaty, only the United Kingdom and France have ratified it.

By simply accepting U.S. policy, good or bad, “Japan is not really acting in its own security interests,” Krieger said.

The CTBT debacle, coupled with a lack of progress in nuclear arms reduction in the 10 years since the toppling of the Berlin Wall, gives Pakistan, India, Iraq and North Korea the excuse that “the strongest nation in the world must rely on nuclear weapons for its security, so why shouldn’t they?” Krieger said.

U.S. plans to develop a national missile defense plan also have grave implications on the relationships among the U.S., Russia and China — implications that will not fail to affect Japan, Krieger warned.

Although intended to meet the threat of North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles, a missile defense scheme will elicit a strong reaction from China, Krieger reckoned, and undermine China’s “relatively good nuclear policy” that includes de-alerted missiles and pledges of no first use.

Japan’s voice, along with that of other U.S. allies, should not be underestimated, Krieger said. “I think it would make a serious difference if U.S. policymakers understand that our closest allies are disturbed by the lack of progress made toward eliminating nuclear weapons.”

Japanese Ambassador to the U.N. Akira Hayashi abstained from voting on an earlier draft of the “New Agenda” resolution last November, charging the resolution “went just a little too far and contained some elements that are a little bit premature.”

But Krieger said such consideration for U.S. feelings is misplaced.

“With knowledge (of what nuclear weapons can do) comes responsibility to teach and also to act,” he said.

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