A major antinuclear group began a series of campaigns Sunday in Tokyo ahead of the 59th anniversary of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with its focus on North Korea’s nuclear program and denuclearization in Northeast Asia.

The Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs (Gensuikin) hosted an annual international meeting attended by guest speakers, including experts on nuclear issues on the Korean Peninsula, U.S. nuclear policies and Japanese-North Korean relations.

“Unlike Iraq, North Korea is (geopolitically) surrounded by strong countries. It is the North Korean leaders themselves who feel threatened the most by other countries in the area,” Lee Jong Wong, a professor at Rikkyo University (St. Paul’s University) in Tokyo, told an audience of some 100 people.

“Nuclear development is a reasonable choice for North Korea to maintain its prestige domestically and people’s support to the current regime,” Lee said, adding that nuclear policies could also be an obstacle to the reconstruction of the North’s state system. “Comprehensive dialogues with other countries would be a way out.”

The Tokyo conference, as part of the World Congress Against A- and H-Bombs, will be followed by various events such as public debates and peace classes for children in Hiroshima from Wednesday to Friday and in Nagasaki on Saturday and Aug. 9, Gensuikin officials said.

Another major antinuclear group, the Japan Council against A & H Bombs, known in Japanese as Gensuikyo, will start a series of rallies dubbed the World Conference against A & H Bombs on Monday in Hiroshima, where a peace memorial ceremony will be held Friday.

Gensuikyo’s events in Hiroshima will continue through Friday and then move to Nagasaki for rallies on Aug. 8 and 9.

Hiroshima will mark its anniversary Friday. Nagasaki will do so on Aug. 9.

Every year, the two nationwide organizations hold various seminars, symposiums, lectures, discussions, forums and international conferences inviting peace and antinuclear icons from home and abroad.

Gensuikin has close ties with the Democratic Party of Japan, the country’s largest opposition party, and the Social Democratic Party. Gensuikyo maintains a close relationship with the Japanese Communist Party.

Gensuikyo was established in 1955, stirred by antiwar feelings inspired by public awareness of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and generated a powerful movement against atomic and hydrogen bombs.

In 1963, however, differences among its members over views on the nuclear testing fractured the group, resulting in the 1965 birth of Gensuikin.

Since then, they have rarely acted together.

On Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, multilateral efforts are under way, with Japan and the United States stressing at the third round of the six-nation talks in June the need for inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Russia, China, North Korea and South Korea are also involved in the six-way talks.

Washington, Tokyo and Seoul have called for Pyongyang’s “complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement” of nuclear programs, while North Korea wants security assurances and energy assistance in return.

The fourth round of the six-nation talks is expected to be held by the end of September.

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