Dispatches from Nagasaki No.18

The Reaction in Nagasaki to the UN’s Adoption of a Resolution for Negotiations on a Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons

On October 27, 2016 (local time), at a meeting of the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) of the United Nations General Assembly held at UN headquarters in New York, a draft resolution on “Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations” was approved by a majority vote of 123 in favor to 38 against, with 16 abstentions. In spite of repeated requests from atomic-bombed cities, Japan, which is the only country to have suffered atomic bombings during wartime, voted against the resolution, in line with the United States and other nuclear states, and many other countries dependent on the “nuclear umbrella.”

Previous to the meeting of the First Committee, Mr. Kazumi Matsui, Mayor of Hiroshima City, and Mr. Tomihisa Taue, Mayor of Nagasaki City, submitted a joint request to Fumio Kishida, Minister of Foreign Affairs, asking the Japanese government to show strong leadership during 2017 in the commencement of negotiations to prohibit nuclear weapons (http://nagasakipea ce.jp/japanese/abolish/protest/kogi_list/79.html). When reports came through on October 27 that Japanese government may vote against the resolution, Mayor Taue sent an urgent request to Minister Kishida warning him that “a vote by Japan against the resolution would create problems for future generations (http://nagasakipeace.jp/japanese/abolish/protest/kogi_list/80.html).” After receiving news the next day of the voting results, Mayor Taue sent a request to the Minister for the third time, saying that “opposition to the resolution by Japan would be a betrayal of the sincere hope of hibakusha, and the cities that experienced nuclear bombing, for the realization of a world without nuclear weapons. It would trample on endeavors made thus far by such cities for the elimination of nuclear weapons and that the nuclear-bombed city of Nagasaki could not overlook this betrayal.” and “This opposition to the resolution would seriously damage any trust the international community had in Japan while being an utter disappointment for the many countries aiming for the elimination of nuclear weapons.” As well as his harsh judgement, Mayor Taue also urged the Japanese government to vote affirmatively at the General Assembly scheduled in December and also urged Japan to participate in the treaty negotiations by taking an active role (http://nagasakipeace.jp/japanese/abolish/protest/kogi_list/81.html). In accordance with a decision made at the 6th Japanese Member Cities Meeting of Mayors for Peace, Mr. Matsui, Mayor of Hiroshima City and also the President of Mayors for Peace, visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on November 24 and submitted a Letter of Request for Prime Minister Abe signed jointly by Mayors Matsui and Taue (Vice President of Mayor for Peace). As well as referring to the voting against the resolution as “the betrayal of the sincere hopes of hibakusha and extremely regrettable,” a request was made for the Japanese government to make diplomatic endeavors to facilitate constructive discussion about the negotiations by all United Nation member states (http://www.mayorsforpeace.org/jp/activites/statement/request/161124_jp/index.html).

Due to Japanese government’s vote against the resolution this time, hibakusha in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who have continually appealed for the elimination of nuclear weapons, expressed strong feelings of disappointment and anger. Dr. Hideo Tsuchiyama, former President of Nagasaki University, said “Japanese government’s vote was a shameful example of its docile subservience to the United States.” He expressed his anger by saying that “although Japan states that it is the only country to have suffered atomic bombings in wartime, actually the country’s actions are not aimed towards the elimination of nuclear weapons; instead, they are going against the current of the times” (Mainichi Shimbun, October 29, 2016). The civil society organization, the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Testimonial Society, which is made up mostly of hibakusha and which has been continuing to compile testimonies for about forty years, sent a letter of protest Prime Minister Abe and Foreign Minister Kishida. This letter of protest refutes as groundless the claims that the Japanese government has repeatedly given as reasons for not advancing the legal prohibition of nuclear weapons such as “it would deepen divisions between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states,” or that “even if a treaty, which nuclear states would oppose, were made, it would not have any effectiveness.” Furthermore, the letter voices strong criticism by saying that “Japan voted that way because of fears that the ‘nuclear umbrella’ would become a ’broken umbrella‘ and so the vote was representative of the Japanese government’s strong intention to try to stem the international tide in favor of prohibiting nuclear weapons.” (The letter of protest will be posted on the website of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Testimonial Society in its entirety, at a later date (http://www.nagasaki-heiwa.org/n3/t3/katsudou.html).

On November 25, representatives of Nagasaki hibakusha including Mr. Sumiteru Taniguchi, President of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council; Dr. Masao Tomonaga, Honorary Director of the Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Genbaku Hospital; representatives of Hiroshima hibakusha; representatives of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organization, a nationwide Hibakusha organization; and people from the Japan Promotion Committee for the Hibakusha Appeal for a nuclear ban treaty visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs together to lodge a protest about the stance of the Japanese government and to demand a more active attitude towards the establishment of a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons. Following that visit, an emergency meeting was held in the Members’ Office Building of the House of Councillors, to request that the government vote in favor of the resolution to prohibit nuclear weapons (Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council Newsletter No.398 http://www1.cncm.ne.jp/~hisaikyo/).

The dilemma regarding elimination of nuclear weapons and dependence on nuclear deterrence has also become an issue in Nagasaki, a city that has suffered nuclear bombing. On December 21, a proposal to protest Japanese government’s vote against the UN First Committee resolution was voted down by a majority in the Nagasaki prefectural assembly. Assemblymen who voted against it said “Japanese government has actively pursued diplomacy in favor of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. This is just a different approach, and is the same as aiming for a world without nuclear weapons. We cannot approve of something [a protest] with a title and content that looks like the government is not aiming for elimination of nuclear weapons.” (Asahi Shimbun, December 22.)

The dilemma regarding elimination of nuclear weapons and dependence on nuclear deterrence has also become an issue in Nagasaki, a city that has suffered nuclear bombing. On December 21, a proposal to protest Japanese government’s vote against the UN First Committee resolution was voted down by a majority in the Nagasaki prefectural assembly. Assemblymen who voted against it said “Japanese government has actively pursued diplomacy in favor of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. This is just a different approach, and is the same as aiming for a world without nuclear weapons. We cannot approve of something [a protest] with a title and content that looks like the government is not aiming for elimination of nuclear weapons.” (Asahi Shimbun, December 22.)

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Dispatches from Nagasaki
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