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Japan Considers Ways of Shedding the Straitjacket and Go the Whole Hog for Nuclear Abolition

By Katsuhiro Asagiri

Photo (from left to right): Ms. Kaoru Nemoto, Director of the United Nations Information Centre in Tokyo; Mr. Nobuharu Imanishi, Director of Arms Control and Disarmament Division, MOFA; Ms. Masako Toki, Education project manager at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey; Ms. Mitsuki Kudo, Nagasaki Youth Delegation 2018. Credit: Katsuhiro Asagiri.

TOKYO (IDN) – Japan's profound interest in the international community's efforts to help usher in a world free of nuclear weapons was underlined in the run-up to the commemoration of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on September 26, which was observed first time in 2014 in accordance with a decision of the UN General Assembly. [P 10] JAPANESE TEXT VERSION PDF

Two events marked the efforts of Japan's civil society to avail of the day to enhance awareness of the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, and enable the country shed the straitjacket of compulsions imposed by the North Korean threat, delicate relations with China and the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

One of the events was the joint antinuclear exhibition of Soka Gakkai International (SGI) and the 2017 Nobel Peace laureate, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) titled "Everything You Treasure – For a World Free From Nuclear Weapons" that opened for the first time in Tokyo on September 21.

The exhibition stressing the importance of the early entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) has been held in 88 cities in 20 countries since its launch in Hiroshima in 2012.

The Treaty was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in July 2017. It opened for signature on September 2017. Until now, 69 countries have signed and 19 ratified the Treaty. It will enter into force 90 days after 50 states have ratified.

Japan did not attend the Treaty negotiations; it has neither signed nor will it ratify the Treaty. Foreign Minister Taro Kono explained the reasons in a message to the event titled "Towards a world free from Nuclear Weapons – Thinking about the role of the only country to have been a victim of atomic bombs" on September 24.

The event was co-organised by the Japan NGO Network for Nuclear Weapons Abolition and the United Nations Information Centre in cooperation with Faculty of Law, Meiji University and The Hibakusha Appeal.

Minister Kono explained that although the Treaty's approach is different from that of the government, the government shares the goal of abolishing nuclear weapons. On the other hand, he said, the TPNW was drafted without taking into account the security aspect: both Nuclear Weapons States and states facing security threat, such as Japan. For this reason, neither of the two groups has participated in the Treaty negotiations.

Nevertheless, declared Kono, the Japanese government will persistently pursue practical as well as concrete efforts which involve nuclear weapon states through promoting early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) that bans all nuclear explosions, for both civilian and military purposes, in all environments.

He also pledged to strive for an early start of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT), a proposed international agreement that would prohibit the production of the two main components of nuclear weapons: highly-enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium.

Further, said Minister Kono, he would continue to promote the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, which in his view is a cornerstone of the international nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime and has accomplished several outcomes as a crux of the regime.

In his view, it is important to seek security and nuclear disarmament simultaneously. Japan believes the trajectory towards "a world free of nuclear weapons" lies in steadily accumulating concrete and practical measures under the cooperation of both Nuclear Weapon States and Non-nuclear Weapon States, while striking a balance between humanitarian and security aspects. Maintaining and strengthening the NPT will therefore continue to be the focus of Japan's efforts.

Transparency, a nuclear disarmament verification mechanism, and interactive discussion involving both nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon States, and active efforts by as well as discussions among the NPT state parties could help build bridges leading to a world free of nuclear weapons.

Minister Kono believes that as the only country to have ever suffered atomic bombings, Japan has the mission to firmly pass on to next generations the correct understanding of the realities of atomic bombings across borders and generations.

As the atomic bomb survivors (Hibakushas) are aging, the Government of Japan launched the 'Youth Communicator for a World without Nuclear Weapons' program in 2013 in order to support efforts to transmit the realities of atomic bombings to future generations.

A Youth Communicator for a World without Nuclear Weapons is expected to participate in various international events, such as atomic bombing exhibitions, conducive to sharing the realities of the use of nuclear weapons with the international community as well as with future generations.

Secretary-General Terumi Tanaka of Nihon Hidankyo, a Japan-wide organization of atomic and hydrogen bomb sufferers, in his keynote speech titled 'I see a light in pathway towards Nuclear Abolition' said the TPNW was adopted by 122 countries representing about 60 percent of the world population.

As the Japanese government has announced, it would neither sign nor ratify the Treaty, the challenge is how we convince the Japanese government to sign and ratify the treaty. "But even if the TPNW enters into force, and Nuclear Weapon States do not cooperate, we would not be able to realize nuclear abolition," said Tanaka.

"Therefore, we will need to change the mind set of Nuclear Weapons States and dependent states such as NATO, the mindset of being dependent on nuclear deterrence policy," he added.

The Japanese government has taken the stance of a state dependent on the U.S. nuclear arsenals for the safety of the nation. "It is time for us to ask anew ourselves whether a majority of Japanese people really would like to be dependent on the U.S. nuclear weapons for our safety," emphasised Tanaka.

"From the perspective of the Hibakusha, we fear that a war involving weapons would ultimately lead to a nuclear war. Therefore, I believe that the Japanese people should keep in mind that we must not use nuclear weapons; in fact we must eliminate them and that the idea of becoming dependent on nuclear weapons is wrong."

MOFA, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says it attaches significance to disarmament education and invites young diplomats from abroad to Hiroshima and Nagasaki to have them meet with the Hibakusha, said Tanaka.

"From my perspective, these efforts do not suffice. Japan should lead the world in disarmament education. In my opinion, Japan should place nuclear abolition education as the pillar of its disarmament education aimed at young people and concentrate its activities on the pillar."

Renowned actress Sayuri Yoshinaga, who has made reciting atomic bomb poetry her life’s work, said in Talk with Akira Kawasaki, a Member of the Executive Committee of Peace Boat and a member of the ICAN International Steering Group, said: "Now that the TPNW has been adopted, I hope that we in Japan will ponder over this issue and say 'No' to nuclear weapons."

The event on September 24 included a panel discussion on "the potential of disarmament education" with Ms. Kaoru Nemoto, Director of the United Nations Information Centre in Tokyo as the moderator.

Nobuharu Imanishi, Director of Arms Control and Disarmament Division of the MOFA pointed out that every August, MOFA has been organizing at the Japanese Permanent Mission in Geneva a meeting between Hiroshima-Nagasaki peace Messengers (High School Students selected by 50 peace organizations in Japan since 1998 to convey voices of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the world) and diplomats from various countries in Geneva.

Besides, the MOFA has been supporting the United Nations Programme of Fellowships on Disarmament – Visit Japan Program. Since 1982, 957 diplomats from various countries have visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki through this program. Several diplomats who are working at the UN in New York and Geneva on disarmament issues have participated in this program and gained knowledge of the reality of atomic bombing.

Ms. Masako Toki, Education project manager at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, emphasized the importance of disarmament education. She referred to a remark by William Perry at Critical Issue Forum at Monterey: "Unless young people understand the real threat posed by nuclear weapons through education for reducing nuclear threat, advancement towards nuclear abolition is impossible."

Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his lecture in Monterey 2013 said: "It is easier for students to learn the logic of nuclear deterrence than to learn to discard the myths that keep nuclear weapons in place. But education can help to refute the claim that nuclear disarmament is utopian."

Ms. Mitsuki Kudo of the Nagasaki Youth Delegation showed a five-minute video which her team presented at a side event during the Second NPT preparatory committee session in Geneva in April 2018. The video introduced voices of ordinary young people in Nagasaki on their perception of nuclear weapons. These included statements such as: "it's difficult to completely abolition nuclear weapons"; "nuclear weapons are next to death", "nuclear weapons are unpredictable", and "terrible to co-exist".

Even among youth in Nagasaki, Ms Kudo said, where young people are presumed to have received peace education, some appear to be negative towards nuclear disarmament issues and some are almost in a state of giving up the hope to change the reality. [IDN-InDepthNews – 30 September 2018]

Photo (from left to right): Ms. Kaoru Nemoto, Director of the United Nations Information Centre in Tokyo; Mr. Nobuharu Imanishi, Director of Arms Control and Disarmament Division, MOFA; Ms. Masako Toki, Education project manager at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey; Ms. Mitsuki Kudo, Nagasaki Youth Delegation 2018. Credit: Katsuhiro Asagiri.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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