11 Juillet 2018
July 9, 2018
EDITORIAL: Let our voices be heard to prod Japan to act on nuke ban treaty
July 7 marked the first anniversary of the adoption of the first-ever legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, reached a year ago at the United Nations, bans the development, possession and use of nuclear arms.
With the world’s nuclear powers, led by the United States and Russia, making little progress toward slashing their nuclear arsenals, about two-thirds of the U.N. member countries voted for the treaty.
The challenge facing the world is how to capitalize on the landmark pact to bring itself closer to a future free from nuclear weapons.
Japan, as the only country that has suffered from the ravages of a nuclear attack, should lead global debate on this challenge. But the Japanese government has never stepped up to the plate, deterred by the fact that Japan is protected by the “nuclear umbrella” provided by the United States.
While promising to serve as a “bridge” between nuclear powers and nonnuclear countries, Tokyo has been keeping a distance from the nuclear ban treaty.
We must not forget that survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or hibakusha, had provided a great incentive for the adoption of the treaty by recounting their stories about the inhumane nature of nuclear arms.
The relatively small countries that served as the driving forces behind the agreement, including Austria, received vital support from nongovernmental organizations across the world. Various messages calling for the abolition of nuclear arms should also be sent out from Japan.
One notable trend that has emerged in Japan over the past year is a wave of support for the treaty among local assemblies.
More than 320 local assemblies, or about 20 percent of all local governments, have adopted proposals calling on the central government to join the nuclear ban treaty.
In June, the Joetsu municipal assembly in Niigata Prefecture unanimously adopted a written opinion urging the government to sign the treaty.
The assembly heard a hibakusha, an 89-year-old woman, tell her story about surviving the devastation of Hiroshima at the age of 16. She is the leader of one of the citizen groups that petitioned the assembly to take the step.
One assembly member described her story as “powerfully moving,” while another said it had a “great impact” on the assembly.
One conservative member of the assembly said, “We have to urge the government to give serious attention to the feelings and anger of hibakusha and ensure that Japan, as the atomic-bombed nation, will make all-out efforts for the abolition of nuclear weapons.”
“We want the government to shed its reluctance and take action instead of simply sitting on the fence.
The town assembly of Shiriuchi, Hokkaido, unanimously adopted a similar opinion in December last year and again in June this year.
The assembly twice took the action because the government has been slow to act.
Although Shiriuchi is a small town of slightly more than 4,000 residents, “We cannot just sit quietly without doing anything,” said a female member of the assembly, who led the move to adopt the petition.
Many other local assemblies have unanimously adopted similar opinions. This fact indicates that the wish to see a world without nuclear weapons is widely shared across political boundaries.
Many citizen groups across the nation have also been engaged in various activities to promote public support for the treaty, such as signature campaigns to call on countries to join the treaty.
One group organized an event in which participants are encouraged to write their wishes for a nuclear-free world on “tanzaku,” or strips of paper on which people write wishes in the traditional “Tanabata” (Star Festival Day) in Japan, which is celebrated on July 7.
For the treaty to take effect, 50 countries need to ratify it. So far only 11 have done so.
It has been reported that nuclear powers are putting “pressure” on countries not to ratify the treaty.
Each of us needs to make tenacious efforts to get the government of the atomic-bombed country out of its inaction to push forward the movement to put the treaty into effect.