Dispatches from Nagasaki No.24

The U.S.-North Korea Summit and Joint Statement – Responses from Nagasaki

On June 12, 2018, President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea met at Singapore for the first summit meeting ever held between those two countries. They afterwards issued a joint statement, best summarized as: “President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

What were the responses to this joint statement in Nagasaki? Presented below are excerpts from broadcasts or articles from assorted Japanese media sources.

Nagasaki City Mayor Tomihisa Taue spoke highly of the joint statement and expressed his hopes for the future. “This meeting between top-level leaders is progress and, I think, could be considered a start on the road to denuclearization. We will of course have to watch what happens from here. I want the U.S. and North Korean officials to continue with such meetings and make denuclearization a reality.” (NHK News Nagasaki: 19:49, 12 June 2018)

Takeshi Yamakawa (81), a Nagasaki hibakusha and representative of the Nagasaki Citizens Association for Protesting U.S. Nuclear Testing, praised the joint statement, saying “this summit marks a historic first step.” In August 1974, concerned citizens first began holdings “sit-ins” to express their opposition to nuclear weapons development; and, over the 44 years from that date, there have been a total of 402 sit-ins. Mr. Yamakawa talks of his hopes for the future: “We don’t want to have a 403rd sit-in. I’m just glad that the two leaders reached a basic agreement. I certainly hope the U.S.-North Korean relations don’t revert to the animosity of days past.” (The Mainichi Shimbun, Nagasaki edition, 13 June 2018)

Dr. Masao Tomonaga (75), former director of the Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Hospital, is another hibakusha. “It’s not as if everything will get resolved with just one meeting. There are other issues, too, such as the North Korean abductions of Japanese nationals and verification [of compliance with any denuclearization agreement]. But still, I do think highly that those leaders have charted a course toward denuclearization. Japan is under the U.S. nuclear umbrella and thus, from the point of view of North Korea, part of the threat. Here, it is important for Japan to play its part by, for instance, convincing the United States to agree to a ban on any first use of nuclear weapons.” (The Mainichi Shimbun, Nagasaki edition, 13 June 2018)

Mr. Koichi Kawano (78), who was born in Korea during the war, was in Nagasaki at the time of the atomic bombing there. “I have long concerned about my birthplace and I want people to live in peace there as well.” For many years, Mr. Kawano has served as Chairman of the Japan Congress against A- and H-Bombs (Gensuikin). In 2007, he had an opportunity to return to the land of his birth in conjunction with a survey of hibakusha then living in North Korea. There, Mr. Kawano was repeatedly told by authorities that “there is an even bigger issue between Japan and North Korea.” From this experience, he says: “Throughout the 73 years of the postwar era, Japan has never taken responsibility for its aggression. Instead, we have just abandoned the North Korean people and left things at that. We must regain our awareness of what happened. Denuclearization and a formal end to the Korean War would take us to the point where we could start discussing economic assistance for North Korea.” Mr. Kawano adds: “We should not offer assistance to North Korea because the U.S. told us to, we should do so spontaneously, under our own initiative.” As for the Joint Statement, he expresses dissatisfaction: “It does not clarify where and how many nuclear weapons are possessed by North Korea, nor does it describe a concrete process for denuclearization. I was hoping for something more substantial; what we did get is not enough.” (Nagasaki Shimbun, 13 June 2018)

Mr. Terumi Tanaka (86), a hibakusha who resides in Saitama Prefecture, serves as Co-Chairperson of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Associations (Nihon Hidankyo). “I do think well of their agreement to completely denuclearize North Korea. From here, I will be watching the degree of openness on the part of North Korea as they move to discard nuclear weapons.” (Nagasaki Shimbun, 13 June 2018)

As above, the U.S.-North Korea Summit and resulting Joint Statement were generally well received in Nagasaki. This said, in addition to anticipation for the future, some commentators also expressed disappointment with the results, pointing to a lack of completeness or specificity. The people of Nagasaki will be closely watching the progress, or otherwise, of further negotiations.

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