Interview with Mr. Tetsuo Saito, Vice Representative, Komei Party
By Katsuhiro Asagiri
TOKYO (IDN) — Hiroshima and Nagasaki mark the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on August 6 and 9 for the first time since the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) came into force on January 22. The survivors of atomic-bomb (Hibakusha) and various civic groups made active contributions to this historic achievement. [2021-08-06 |11] JAPANESE TEXT VERSION PDF | KOREAN | MALAY
While the Japanese government, which relies on the US nuclear umbrella for Japan’s national security, has thus far maintained its stance against joining the TPNW. Public opinion polls conducted in Japan from mid-2020 to January 2021 consistently show that a clear majority of Japan’s population, 72% at its highest, believe that Japan should join the TPNW.
Against this backdrop, junior partner in the ruling coalition, Komei Party, has been urging the Japanese government to take the initiative in proposing new security alternatives to nuclear deterrence and has proposed that Japan should, at the very least, take part as an observer to the first meeting of the TPNW Conference of the States-Parties in order to participate from the very beginning.
In an E-mail interview with Katsuhiro Asagiri (KA), IDN’s Asia-Pacific Bureau Chief, Mr. Tetsuo Saito (TS), Vice Representative of Komei Party, explained that as the only country to have experienced the horror of nuclear devastation in war, Japan should strive to enlist the support of the world in joining the TPNW.
Following is complete text of the interview:
KA: You spent your senior high school days as well as 18 years as the prefectural representative of the Komei party in Hiroshima. We understand that people in your constituency keep asking you: "Why can’t Japan join the TPNW, despite the fact that we experienced a devastating attack using atomic bombs?" What has been your reply to this important question?
TS: My personal sentiment is that Japan should become a signatory to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. If that isn’t possible, then our country should at the very minimum take part as an observer to the Conference of the States-Parties to the Treaty, which is what I’ve been asserting in the Diet. At the same time, I realize that the Japanese government’s reticence in signing the TPNW rises from its dependence on the US-Japan Security Treaty, which is based on the doctrine of nuclear deterrence, for Japan’s national security.
KA: As a member of the ruling coalition, Komei Party has requested that the Government consider participation as an observer in the meeting of the state parties after the Treaty, which has meanwhile entered into force. And, the state parties are scheduled to meet in January 2022.
Your party's stance is that Japan must seriously come to terms with the TPNW if it wants to fulfil its role as the a-bombed nation." What do you think is standing in the way of Japan not acting on your appeal?
TS: As I noted earlier, Japan relies on the US nuclear umbrella for its national security as our country faces a very challenging security environment in which some nations in this region do not abide by the same values as we do and possess nuclear weapons. That is the reality we are confronted by. Having said that, as the only country to have experienced the horror of nuclear devastation in war, Japan should strive to enlist the support of the world in joining the TPNW.
KA: Also Izumi Nakamitsu, the UN Under-Secretary-General has said: “I think that Japan, as the world’s only nation attacked by nuclear weapons, should not pass up the opportunity to participate in the dialogue about the treaty.” Do you think Ms Nakamitsu's remarks have left your senior coalition partner unimpressed?
TS: There are legislators in the Liberal Democratic Party that agree with the UN Under-Secretary-General’s statement. Komei Party intends to work closely with them.
KA: Have you planned any campaigns to convince the Government to heed such calls?
TS: At the budget committee hearing held on February 22 this year, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi’s response to my queries was ground-breaking. What he acknowledged was the formulation of a new doctrine to supersede nuclear deterrence. I see it as an opening to further discussion.
There are many ways to contribute to and inform a proper discourse of the Conference of the States-Parties by establishing, for example, the definition of “hibakusha” precisely because the Japanese are the only people to have experienced the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I feel that this would be informative for the countries possessing nuclear weapons as well. At the very least, Japan should take part in the Conference as an observer from the very start. [IDN-InDepthNews – 6 August 2021]
Top Photo: Hirohima Peace Memorial Park. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Photo in text: Tetsuo Saito, Vice Representative of Komei Party Credit: Tetsuo Saito.