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Toward a world free of nuclear weapons (2)

July 29, 2018


Japan, other nations must tackle reducing nuclear weapons



By ROY K. AKAGAWA/ AJW Staff Writer


NAGASAKI--At a time of uncertainty as to the relationship between the United States and Russia, other nations, including Japan, as well as private citizens, need to act toward achieving a world without nuclear weapons.


That sentiment was echoed by a number of speakers at an international symposium here on July 28.


This year’s International Symposium for Peace, “The Road to Nuclear Weapons Abolition,” had the specific theme of “Toward sustainable peace.”


Jointly sponsored by the Nagasaki city government, the Nagasaki Foundation for the Promotion of Peace and The Asahi Shimbun, the symposium was held at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum Hall.


In his keynote address, Thomas Countryman, chairman of the Arms Control Association, said, “Now is the time to convene a high-level summit approach to help overcome the impasse on nuclear disarmament.”


Countryman is a career diplomat who served as assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation under former U.S. President Barack Obama


He explained that not only were the United States and Russia moving away from a decades-long trend to reduce their respective nuclear arsenals, but both Washington and Moscow are also now contemplating new ways of using different nuclear weapons.


Countryman said that any multilateral summit could not depend on leadership from the United States and Russia.


“When the longtime leader of the free world is deliberately stepping away from leadership, the other democratic nations of the world must take up the challenge,” he said. “It’s up to Japan, to Germany, to Canada, to other nations that still believe in multilateralism to get this effort started.”


Much of the discussion that followed among a panel of experts also touched upon the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was passed by more than 100 members of the United Nations last year. However, not only were the nuclear powers absent from the international conference where that vote took place, but many nations covered under the nuclear umbrella of the United States, such as Japan, also did not take part.


While acknowledging that the ban treaty would not eliminate nuclear weapons overnight, Countryman said it carried a strong message for all those who are concerned about having nuclear weapons in the world.


“It is a strong moral statement,” he said. “It is a strong ethical statement. And it is something tangible--something that can be touched by the hibakusha and by the citizens of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It is a statement of reality that the risk of nuclear war is carried not just by the nuclear-weapon states but by the entire world. And it is intended to serve as an impulse for further action globally on nuclear disarmament."


Susi Snyder, another speaker, serves as a member of the International Steering Group of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which won last year’s Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to gain approval of the nuclear weapons ban treaty.


The role of a civil society to push nations to vote for the ban treaty produced some of the humanitarian disarmament factors displayed in the treaty, including new provisions for victim assistance and environmental remediation, Snyder explained.


“It puts the focus on the effect of the weapons and makes it every state’s responsibility to deal with the catastrophe that would come if the weapons are ever used again,” she said.

She said ICAN would continue to work to establish global norms that could prevent the use of nuclear weapons.


“We will continue with our efforts to stigmatize nuclear weapons,” she said. “To build up global public concern that nuclear weapons are unacceptable.”


She said that times do change, pointing to the fact that no nation today would boast about possessing or using chemical weapons after some insisted a few decades ago that it constituted a vital part of their military deterrence.


The theme of humanitarian disarmament was also taken up by Motoko Mekata, a professor of NPO policy studies at Chuo University, who talked about her experiences in working with like-minded individuals around the world to win approval for treaties that banned anti-personnel mines and cluster bombs. Those treaties were approved almost a decade apart in 1997 and 2008.


Describing those treaties along with the nuclear weapons ban treaty as arising amid the trend toward humanitarian disarmament efforts, Mekata said, “I believe it was a victory emerging from the ordinary sense held by the average citizen. That sense is one that says mankind cannot co-exist with indiscriminate and inhumane weapons, such as anti-personnel mines, cluster bombs and nuclear weapons. I feel those treaties are the result of ordinary citizens returning back to a natural sense of what it means to be human.”


Nobuyasu Abe, a former Foreign Ministry diplomat who also served as U.N. under-secretary-general for disarmament affairs, also criticized the government for working in lockstep with Washington in opposing the nuclear ban treaty last year.


Explaining he could point out what he considered errors on the part of the government because he no longer worked for it, Abe questioned why the government participated in a campaign to pressure non-nuclear weapons nations to not vote for the nuclear weapons ban treaty. He said since such nations would never possess such weapons in any case, they should have been allowed to freely join the treaty.


The importance of utilizing all possible outlets to work toward peace as well as the abolition of nuclear weapons was demonstrated during a special dialogue that began the day’s proceedings. Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue discussed what could be done from his city along with Akira Takata, president of V-Varen Nagasaki, a J.League soccer club that was promoted to the top J1 League for the first time this season.


Before acquiring the soccer club, Takata founded a hugely successful TV shopping network known as Japanet Takata Co., and he acquired a wide fan base through his witty sales talk.

Takata explained that he wanted his team's players to not only play with all their might, but to also stress love and peace.


One element displaying the emphasis on peace was the logo on the uniform of the V-Varen Nagasaki team. On the chest is a UNICEF logo and a paper crane silhouette, while Japanet Takata’s logo is on the back even though it is the main sponsor of the team. Paper cranes have long been associated with a prayer for peace among the atomic bomb survivors.

Takata also said he was very pleased that promotion to the J1 allowed his team to compete this season for the first time with Sanfrecce Hiroshima.


Citing such clubs as Real Madrid and Barcelona, Takata said, “If there is one thing that even such super clubs would never be able to beat out Nagasaki and Hiroshima, I felt it would be to call for peace.”


Meanwhile, Taue explained that he often discusses with city government workers about dealing with the approach of two new but deeply connected trends: the end of the age when hibakusha are still living as well as the start of an age without hibakusha. That meant Nagasaki would have to take up new measures in passing on the experiences of the hibakusha to future generations.


He added that the nuclear weapons ban treaty should serve as an inspiration to citizens who may feel resigned that nothing that they can do as an individual will ever make a difference in bringing about a world without nuclear weapons.


“A large number of small nations did not resign themselves to not being able to do anything in the face of the major powers, but instead worked together to approve the ban treaty,” Taue said.


Reinforcing the impression that his ideas about soccer could have only emerged from out-of-the-box thinking, Takata also laid out his own proposal for reducing nuclear weapons.

“If every nation in the world was led by a woman, they would agree to get rid of nuclear weapons,” he said.




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