Dispatches from Nagasaki No.26

Sixth Nagasaki Global Citizens’ Assembly for Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (Nagasaki City, November 16-18, 2018)


Two recent events have given hope and encouragement to us members of civil society – an adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) (July 2017) and a conferral of the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

And, on the Korean peninsula, where tensions still ran high last year, two inter-Korea summit meetings kindled hopes for “denuclearization and a path to peace,” after which a historically groundbreaking US-DPRK summit meeting in Singapore bolster prospects for denuclearization together with a formal end to the Korean War. Such developments present an excellent opportunity for Japan and other regional players to establish a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (NEA-NWFZ).

This said, on a global perspective, the general outlook for nuclear disarmament is deteriorating. Here, a number of developments portend increasing instability. First, leaders in the US are calling for a Nuclear Posture Review that would seek to expand the role of nuclear weapons by developing/deploying smaller, more “usable” nuclear weapons. Second, the US has also declared that it will no longer abide by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran nuclear deal), earlier crafted to limit the Iranian nuclear program. And third, the US has stated its intention to fully abandon the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a historically significant arms control agreement reached with the Soviet Union in 1987.

One main theme of this assembly is that now is the time to follow on the momentum of the TPNW and the ICAN Novel Prize conferral as we strive to attain a world without nuclear weapons. This is an international assembly, the first such convocation in five years, one hosted by the people of Nagasaki together with their representatives in the Nagasaki municipal and prefectural governments. The assembly welcomed researchers and specialists from Japan and around the world, the Director of Arms Control and Disarmament Division at the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), no less than 12 representatives of leading NGOs, and 17 college students: two from the US, five from Malaysia, five from China, and five from South Korea. Together we listened to a keynote speech before breaking down into four workshops, where we separately discussed issues toward the creation of a world without nuclear weapons before regathering to present our conclusions to all. The assembly extended over three days and entailed the participation of 3,500 private citizens, college students, and even schoolchildren. The full program can be followed with the links below.

1. Keynote speech: Professor Mitsuru Kurosawa, Osaka Jogakuin College

Professor Kurosawa stressed the importance of centering the security of global citizens on the denuclearization movement. His approach was broad and encompassing. He pointed out the conceptual framework for security arrangements is showing signs of changing, of shifting from one centered on the security of nation states and, as an extension of that, the international community, to one centered on security of individuals and, as an extension of that, the community of mankind. With the TPNW, he said, we strip such weapons of their legitimacy, we stigmatize them. He concluded that the global trend of the antinuclear weapon movement is now toward broadening the scale of such legal efforts and, under the NPT framework, to advance both treaties together, not under a spirit of confrontation but rather of comprehensiveness. The participants were able to gain a real sense that the actions of those of us in Nagasaki, the site of an atomic bombing, who have continued with this Assembly over the past 18 years with a sense of being global citizens, are indeed starting to finally reach the new concept of security.

2. Workshop I: Progress in peace talks and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula – the future of Northeast Asia without nuclear weapons (seven panelists)

The inter-Korea Summit led to the Panmunjom Declaration and the Pyongyang Declaration, which promise a formal end to the Korean War, a framework for peace across the Korean peninsula, and an abandonment of the nuclear ambitions of the North Korea. All panelists welcomed this. Representatives of South Korea, China, Russia, the US, Germany, Mongolia and Japan next exchanged a variety of opinions as to how such promises could be turned into reality. Professor Tatsujiro Suzuki, RECNA Director, pointed out that this offers us an opportunity to draw within range of our targets for peace on and denuclearization of the peninsula, and to realize an NEA-NWFZ, including Japan. The emergence of the NEA-NWFZ, as well as the existing nuclear weapon-free zones in the northern hemisphere (Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone running through five countries in central Asia, Mongolian Nuclear-Weapons-Free Status) would do much to encourage global denuclearization on a global scale. Furthermore, if the three predominant nuclear powers in the region (the US, China and Russia) would offer negative security assurances, that too would do much to further the development of international security arrangements. It would also present Japan with an opportunity to abandon the US nuclear umbrella. Participants specializing in nuclear disarmament next made some good points about conditions (establishment of a system of verification; etc.) for North Korean denuclearization.

Workshop Ⅱ : Carrying on the legacy of hibakusha – learning from, and transmitting, the thoughts of nuclear victims (four panelists)

Hibakusha have long called for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. And here, to continue to promote denuclearization into the future, we must transmit this fervor to the next generation. We invited Ms. Kathleen Sullivan, whose award-winning book, Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War (Penguin Books, 2016), has had a significant social impact, to join us. Ms. Sullivan is from the US, which is regarded as the leader of the nuclear weapon states. She nonetheless has been very active in citizen movements over the years and here, at the assembly, participated in vigorous discussions with hibakusha and, in cases, their grandchildren. First-hand accounts by these and other hibakusha had an especially strong impact on participants from overseas. Also felt was the importance of creating a network capable of passing on these lessons to a broad international audience.

This workshop was comprised of two parts, with the second being a “transmittal salon,” within which representatives of a number of peace/antinuclear civic organizations introduced themselves and their activities, exchanged views on various initiatives, and discussed activities and prospects for the future. To effect this transmittal, cited was the importance of media, such as photographs, music, movies, and anime. Participants were encouraged by the enthusiasm for nuclear disarmament displayed by their younger colleagues, many of whom have started peace-related educational or political programs under their own initiative.

Workshop Ⅲ : Building a world without nuclear weapons with future generations

University students from Nagasaki, Tokyo and other areas of Japan joined local citizens and overseas students -to discuss the results of a survey on attitudes toward initiatives to build a future without nuclear weapons. Approximately 150 people participated in this workshop, breaking off into groups of five or six to discuss various issues and arrive at conclusions for presentation to the other groups.

The survey was carried out over SNSs (social networking services) and on a fairly large scale, entailing the cooperation of nearly 1,000 students (half high school, half college). A full 80% of respondents expressed an interest in the abolition of nuclear weapons; and nearly 85% said that they consider a nuclearfree world to be an attainable goal. These results were heartening to assembly participants. On the other hand, as for actively participating in the movement, many respondents expressed a lack of interest, a reluctance to get involved, and a need to avoid standing out as a radical with upcoming job hunts in the near future. All told, about 30% expressed an intent to actively participate, and only 47% said the Japanese government should immediately sign a petition calling for a ratification of the TPNW (among Nagasaki students, though, the affirmation rate was 59%). About 20% of all respondents (12% of Nagasaki respondents) felt such action would be premature. A fairly high percentage (30%) said they considered Japan to be under the protection of the US nuclear umbrella. Japanese young people thus show a fairly high degree of interest in nuclear issues but are hindered from participating in related movements by a variety of obstacles. Here, many groups pointed out the necessity of a network to widely share information/knowledge and tie it into action. This is a very important conclusion, one of much significance with regards to devising ways to raise the level of nuclear consciousness/awareness among members of the next generation of Japanese as they strive to attain a nuclear free world. Here, the core Nagasaki group proposed the formation of a nationwide “Youth Network for Peace” promote nuclear disarmament educational programs and political actions. A majority of the working groups expressed their agreement with this proposition.

Participants from the US, a nuclear state, reported that young people in that country generally share this view. They spoke of the necessity of stoking a broadbased movement within the US society toward the attainment of a future free of nuclear weapons. Participants from Asian countries beyond Japan also expressed active support for a nuclear-free world, demonstrating that a consensus is taking shape among the young people of the world. Particularly touching was a tearful vow by a participant from Malaysia as she cited the pain and suffering of hibakusha victims.

Workshop Ⅳ: Achieving a world without nuclear weapons – the NPT framework and the role of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (five panelists)

This workshop was particularly notable for vigorous debate under the direction of five distinguished panelists – Mr. Nobuhara Imanishi, Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Division, MOFA; Mr. Daniel Högsta, Campaign Coordinator, ICAN; Dr. Tariq Rauf, a Canadian expert on nuclear disarmament and a member of the Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament; Ms. Masako Toki, a nonproliferation expert active in the US; and Ms. Jacqueline Cabasso, executive director of a US-based NPO.

After half a century, the NPT regime has reached a stalemate and the TPNW was adopted. Amid this, a split is widening between, on one hand, nuclear states and the countries dependent on them for their security (e.g., Japan), which give first priority to national/international security, and, on the other hand, nonnuclear states and civil movements (e.g., ICAN), which give first priority to the security of humanity and global citizens in general. Amid this split, many participants spoke of a need for civil society to work toward the codification of international norms of behavior.

It is the position of the Japanese government that Japan, via a Group of Eminent Persons established with the MOFA, must work to bridge the gap between these two camps. Director Imanishi touched upon this point, which comes amid the Japanese government’s refusal to endorse the TPNW. Ms. Toki stressed the importance of nuclear disarmament related education in empowering the young people of the world as they strive to attain a world free of nuclear weapons. She also presented an overview of the current state of such education in the US. While the US Federal government may strongly oppose to any sort of the TPNW, there is a move to collect signatures at the local state level to compel congressional representatives to push the central government in that direction.

Dr. Rauf, a member of the MOFA’s Group of Eminent Persons, spoke of the necessity of bridge-building on the part of the Japanese government and of the importance of comprehensively managing the TPNW within the NPT framework (two points in common with the keynote speech). The NPT and TPNW should not be acting in opposition, he said, but rather should supplement each other toward the shared goal of denuclearization. He stressed the importance of having both camps maintain a common, cooperative orientation toward this goal, and participants expressed their wish for the Japanese government to take bridgebuilding actions to facilitate this.

Within an open debate, Director Imanishi emphasized that the Japanese government is not dead-set against the TPNW. He explained that once certain conditions are met (including, for one, a favorable turn in various international disputes of relevance to nuclear threats) and nuclear weapon stockpiles are reduced to an acceptably low level, MOFA would consider the TPNW as a necessary last step toward the attainment of a nuclear-free world. A statement on this level is something new from MOFA, and we think highly of it.

Japan’s so-called “nuclear dilemma” – maintaining the goal of nuclear weapons abolition while depending on the US nuclear umbrella – has been deepening. As above, the Japanese government has established a Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament, which is to serve as a “bridge-builder” between the nuclear-armed/nuclearumbrella states and the states not possessing nuclear weapons. Although this is a positive step, the Japanese government has yet to make any effective recommendations to that end. On the contrary, as Japan stands in opposition to the TPNW, it seems to have lost its way on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation policy.

Recently developed as a special project is “What’s Peace Like?,” a unique attempt intended to get children thinking about peace, to make them familiar with what it means and appreciative of its importance. This new avenue toward peace education, which takes the form of picture books and stories, was revealed for the first time here at the assembly.

Nagasaki Appeal

A final draft of the Nagasaki Appeal was adopted upon considerable discussion and debate over a committee draft (link below). To depart from an earlier reliance on security as viewed on a nation state level to a new emphasis on security as viewed the level of global citizens, of people as individuals, including the majority who do not live in nuclear armed countries, we confirmed the heavy responsibility borne by states that do possess nuclear weapons, affirmed the importance of ratifying the TPNW and of maintaining its complementariness with the NPT, and concluded the assembly by calling on the Japanese government to ratify the TPNW.

・Nagasaki Global Citizens’ Assembly for Elimination of Nuclear Weapons website: http://ngo-nagasaki.com/

To the Page Top

Dispatches from Nagasaki
  • 3rd Essay Contest on a “Nuclear Weapons Free Future”
  • nu-nea_project2021-2023
  • J-PAND
  • YouTube English Channel
  • YouTube Youth Videos
  • PCU-NC Nagasaki Council
  • Scenario_Project_E