Dispatches from Nagasaki No.27

The notice of withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty – Statement from an atomic-bombed city

The announcement by the United States of its notification to Russia to withdraw from the INF Treaty has naturally attracted much criticism in the atomic-bombed city of Nagasaki. RECNA has already declared the decision by the United States as “an absolute act of folly” (https://www.recna.nagasaki-u.ac.jp/recna/en-recnaseye/no8-en) and there has also been a succession of protests from atomic bomb survivors’ organizations, peace activity groups, and local governments in Japan. Dr. Masao Tomonaga, chairman of the Nagasaki Global Citizens’ Assembly for Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, expressed his fears in comments such as “I feel as though the world is reverting back to the Cold War era, or even before that” and “the United States is playing around with the power of nuclear weapons.” Mr. Toyoichi Ihara, president of the Society of Hibakusha Certificate Holders of Nagasaki Prefecture, also echoed this saying, “The move by these two countries (the United States and Russia) goes against the movement to eliminate nuclear weapons and all the hard work thus far will have been in vain” (Asahi Shimbun, February 3, 2019). Mr. Koichi Kawano, chairman of the Liaison Council of Hibakusha, Nagasaki Peace Movement Center, commented “Just when the opportunity is mounting to eliminate nuclear weapons after so much effort, the boat is being rocked.” Mr. Takeshi Yamakawa, representative of the Nagasaki Citizens Association for Protesting U.S. Nuclear Testing expressed strong concerns in his comment “Not only between the two great nuclear powers, this will have a bad influence on the nuclear weapons situation globally and create an atmosphere opposing the elimination of nuclear weapons” (Nagasaki Shimbun, February 2, 2019).

Although having showed wholehearted approval of the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) by the Trump Administration (https://www.recna.nagasaki-u.ac.jp/recna/en-dispatches/no-23), the Japanese government responded quickly to the notification of the US’s withdrawal from the INF Treaty with a comment from Foreign Minister Taro Kono at a press conference on February 1. While showing consideration for the position of the United States, Mr. Kono said that “the situation … is not desirable for the world” (https://www.mofa.go.jp/press/kaiken/kaiken4e_000600.html). Furthermore, in another press conference held on February 5, Mr. Kono said, “Japan will actively urge for expansion of the INF Treaty to countries that already possess such missiles as well as countries that are developing them” (https://www.mofa.go.jp/press/kaiken/kaiken4e_000601.html) bearing in mind that President Trump mentioned a new treaty to control intermediate-range nuclear missiles. In regard to the stance shown by the Japanese government, Mr. Yamakawa said, “Japan should take the lead in protesting to the United States and play an intermediary role in preventing its withdrawal from the treaty” (Nagasaki Shimbun, February 2, 2019). In response to a remark on February 4 by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga that he understands the decision by the United States to withdraw from the treaty, Chairman Ihara voiced severe criticism saying that as a country that suffered such a terrible experience [in the atomic bombing], Japan should guide nuclear powers towards nuclear disarmament and that therefore, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga’s remark was completely wrong (Nishinippon Shimbun February 6, 2019). Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue commented that it was “entirely unacceptable” and also that as the collapse of the treaty may possibly have an impact on Northeast Asia, and he urged the Japanese government to persuade the United States and Russia to stay in the treaty. (Asahi Shimbun, February 3, 2019)

The mayors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima visited the embassies in Tokyo of the United States and Russia on February 12 to lodge a direct appeal that the INF Treaty be kept. Also, the main atomic bomb survivors organizations in Nagasaki created a written request dated February 5 which they jointly signed and sent to President Trump urging him to retract the US decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty. Movement is underway in the atomic-bombed cities to directly persuade the United States and Russia to keep the INF Treaty.

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