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Bomb survivors "betrayed"

November 19, 2018


EDITORIAL: Japan failing to ‘bridge’ divide between nuke, non-nuke states




Serving as a mediator between two groups with conflicting opinions requires winning the trust of both sides and helping them find common ground by providing channels of communications between the parties.


Japan has been trying to be a “bridge” between the group of countries calling for a ban on nuclear weapons and the bloc of nations that remain dependent on nuclear deterrence, mainly the nuclear powers.


In reality, however, Japan is not just failing in its self-appointed role but also acting in a way that could further undermine the credibility of its unique position as the only country that has suffered nuclear attacks.


Earlier this month, the United Nations General Assembly First Committee, which deals with issues concerning disarmament and international security, adopted two nuclear arms-related resolutions.


One urges all nations to sign and ratify the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted by the United Nations in July last year. This resolution was adopted with the support of more than 120 countries.


But Japan, along with the United States, Russia and other nuclear powers, voted against it. Tokyo has been consistently distancing itself from the landmark treaty.


Countries promoting the treaty have expressed, again, disappointment and criticism over Japan’s stance.


Survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who are longing to see their country sign the treaty, have said they have been “betrayed.”


The other is a Japan-sponsored resolution calling for the total elimination of nuclear weapons. It was passed by the First Committee with the support of 160 countries. Tokyo has successfully promoted a similar resolution for the past 25 consecutive years.


But the latest version, like the one adopted last year, did not refer to the nuclear arms ban treaty. As a result, many of the nations promoting the treaty abstained.


Two of the nuclear powers, the United States and France, also abstained although they voted for last year’s resolution. They were apparently displeased with stronger rhetoric in the call for nuclear arms reductions.


These facts are raising serious concerns that Japan’s diplomatic efforts to serve as a mediator between the two camps are badly misguided.


In early November, the Japanese members of Mayors for Peace, an international association of cities for promoting peace chaired by the mayor of Hiroshima, held a meeting in Gifu Prefecture. The Japanese members represent most of the municipalities in this country.


Many participants voiced concerns about how Japan can perform the role of a bridge between the two blocs. The municipalities adopted a written request to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in which they called on the government to sign the treaty.


The Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament, set up by the Japanese government, is Tokyo’s attempt to map out a new strategy for serving as a bridge through discussions with experts from both nuclear and non-nuclear countries.


The group held its third meeting in mid-November in Nagasaki. Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue had urged the members to discuss national security issues from the viewpoint of what happened to “people under the mushroom cloud.”


But many atomic bomb survivors and members of nongovernmental organizations dedicated to nuclear disarmament have grown disgruntled with the group. During a meeting with the experts of the group, one of the critics argued that serving as a mediator does not mean acting as a spectator.


The Japanese government should redefine its role for nuclear disarmament from its basic status as a country that has suffered the devastation of atomic bombings.

Japan’s efforts should be focused on conveying messages from atomic bomb survivors to the world and emphasizing the inhuman nature of nuclear weapons.


With both the United States and Russia moving toward placing greater importance on nuclear arms and enhancing their nuclear arsenals, Japan should be keenly aware of the heavy weight of its responsibility and role for the international movement toward a future free from nuclear weapons.


--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 19


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