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Is Japan negating its own experience of nuclear horror?

May 10, 2013


Preventing use of nuclear weapons



Japan recently refused to support an international joint statement which stressed that “It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances.”

The Japanese government’s failure to sign the statement is regrettable in view of the simple fact that Japan became the first nation in history to suffer from the use of nuclear weapons through the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. In addition, a nuclear catastrophe happened at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, causing great hardship to residents of Fukushima Prefecture.

Some 150,000 people from the prefecture are still forced to live away from their homes because the homes are located in areas contaminated by radioactive substances from the plant.

The Japanese are among the few on Earth who have experienced the dread of exposure to radiation whether it is from a nuclear weapon or from a nuclear power plant accident. Many Japanese citizens will not accept the government’s decision not to sign the statement, which was supported on April 24 by 74 countries at the second session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in Geneva.

The joint statement said in part, “It is a shared responsibility of all States to prevent the use of nuclear weapons.” It also said, “The only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons will never be used again is through their total elimination.” It would not be far-fetched to say that by not supporting it, Japan has negated its own hard experience it could use to accelerate moves toward the elimination of nuclear weapons.

The government explained that it refused to support the statement after taking into consideration the security situation Japan finds itself in. It is apparently referring to the protection provided by the United States’ nuclear umbrella.

But the government has the responsibility to answer the question of what it thinks of the horrible and numerous deaths caused by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings, the physical and psychological sufferings of the bombing survivors, and the continuing sufferings and fears of Fukushima people.

It should consider the possibility that the more countries support the joint statement, the more pressure it will exert on countries that have nuclear weapons, thus deterring them from using nuclear weapons. An attitude as shown by Japan could weaken worldwide efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation and even strengthen the belief that nuclear weapons are useful and usable.

Pointing to “the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons,” the joint statement said, “the catastrophic effects of a nuclear weapon detonation, whether by accident, miscalculation or design, cannot be adequately addressed.” The government also should pay attention to this point.

Four NATO countries — Denmark, Iceland, Luxembourg and Norway — supported the joint statement although they are protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Japan should study their thinking and use the study results to change its attitude toward international efforts to prevent the use of nuclear weapons.


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