Sixty-eight years have passed since atomic bombs were used against people for the first time — on Aug. 6, 1945, in Hiroshima and three days later in Nagasaki. Policymakers the world over should take concrete action toward the abolition of nuclear weapons by listening to what Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui said in his 2013 Peace Declaration on Tuesday, the 68th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.
Mr. Matsui reminded us that nuclear weapons are “the ultimate inhumane weapon and an absolute evil” because of their nature: “Indiscriminately stealing the lives of innocent people, permanently altering the lives of survivors, and stalking their minds and bodies to the end of their days.”
His next statement expressed common sense thinking that leaders of nuclear weapons states should take to heart. “Policymakers of the world, how long will you remain imprisoned by distrust and animosity? Do you honestly believe you can continue to maintain national security by rattling your sabers?”
He continued: “Please come to Hiroshima. Encounter the spirit of the hibakusha (atomic bombing survivors). Look squarely at the future of the human family without being trapped in the past, and decide to shift to a system of security based on trust and dialogue.”
The current situation is far from the ideal as described by the Hiroshima mayor. There are some 17,000 nuclear weapons all over the world, including those to be scrapped. Despite U.S. President Barack Obama’s call for further mutual cuts in nuclear arsenals, Russia has not yet responded positively. In February, North Korea carried out its third nuclear explosion test. There is a report that Iran already possesses enough enriched uranium to make six or more nuclear bombs.
In Japan, the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant continues, threatening further contamination of the environment with radioactive materials. In addition, Japan has stockpiled some 44 tons of plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel. Such plutonium can be converted into the ingredients for a nuclear weapon.
As the first country to suffer the dread of exposure to radiation from a nuclear attack, Japan has a special responsibility to move forward with efforts to eliminate such weapons. Yet, on April 24 it refused to sign an important statement supported by 74 countries at the second session in Geneva of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The statement said in part, “It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances.”
Japanese officials stress that because Japan is under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, it cannot sign such a statement. But even if the current security arrangement cannot be changed anytime soon, the Japanese government has a moral duty to draw up a long-term security plan that is not dependent on nuclear weapons. Japan, which knows firsthand the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons, must have the courage to declare that nuclear weapons are an absolute evil, and work strenuously toward their abolishment.