Dispatches from Nagasaki No.1

The heads of more than 400 local authorities express support for a Northeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone

(August 13, 2012) NPO Peace Depot reports that as of August 13, 2012, the heads of 404 local authorities and two municipal governmental organizations had expressed support for a statement to create a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Northeast Asia. In the last one hundred days alone the names of more than one hundred leaders were added. The two municipal governmental organizations are Mayors for Peace (presided over by Kazumi Matsui, Mayor of Hiroshima) and the National Council of Japan Nuclear Free Local Authorities (President Tomihisa Taue, Mayor of Nagasaki). Among the mayors who have signed on are those of Kyoto, Kawasaki and Hiroshima, three cities with populations exceeding one million people.

Up until the present, negotiations aimed at bringing about the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula have been conducted through the Six-Party Talks involving South Korea, North Korea, Japan, China, Russia and the United States. For more than three-and-a-half years, however, this meeting finds itself in a stalemate. The current statement, entitled Statement of Support for a Northeast Asia Nuclear- Weapon-Free Zone, suggests that if one of the countries in the Six-Party Talks was to put forth a plan for such a zone, it could open up new possibilities in the talks.

It is emphasized in the statement that efforts to establish such a zone will not only promote regional denuclearization, but also give momentum to international calls for a world free of nuclear weapons. It goes on to say that the responsibility for realizing a world free of nuclear weapons rests with all countries, not only those that are in possession of such arms. It specifically points out that next to the nuclear-armed nations, it is the countries dependent on the “nuclear umbrella” that hold the most responsibility. While nuclear-umbrella- dependent countries like Japan and South Korea are included in the planned Northeast Asia nuclear-weapon-free zone, once it is established they could break away from this dependence.

In the statement it is referred that one realistic configuration for the Northeast Asia nuclear-weapon-free zone would be a “3 plus 3″ arrangement. Under this arrangement the three countries of Japan, South Korea and North Korea would form a geographical zone in which there would be a ban on the possessing, developing or testing of such weapons. The remaining three counties of Russia, China and the U.S., all designated nuclear weapon states under the Nuclear Non- proliferation Treaty, would agree to a “guarantee of security” (known as a “negative security assurance”) under which they would not launch nor threaten to launch a nuclear attack against any of the countries in the zone. 

Twice in the past the signatures of the mayors who endorse the statement have been presented to the Japanese government in order to request that efforts be made to establish a Northeast Asia nuclear-weapon-free zone. The first such occasion was in August of 2011, when Nagasaki Mayor Tomohisa Taue served as representative of the signatories of more than 100 heads of local governments at that time. This was received by the Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, Takeaki Matsumoto. The Minister was quoted as responding that “A number of threats exist in Northeast Asia and security is being maintained by the U.S. deterrent. Deliberations on the zone will be made in accordance with developments in the international situation” (Chugoku Shimbun; August 3, 2011). At the end of March this year Mayor Taue once again appealed to the minister, this time sending the same petition signed by 289 municipal heads to Senior Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi. “The trend towards using military means to bring about security conversely encourages more peril,” said Mayor Taue. “We would like to see more consideration given to a move toward building security through relations based on trust.” To this Vice Minister Yamaguchi replied, “I think there are a number of ways for us to move toward a world free of nuclear weapons, and a nuclear-weapon-free zone is one of the ideas that I believe warrants consideration” (Yomiuri Shimbun, March 30, 2012). Mayor Taue expressed his willingness to persevere with negotiations when he commented that, “Almost entire southern hemisphere is already covered by several nuclear-weapon-free zones, and each zone was achieved in a span of five or ten years” (Nagasaki Shimbun, March 30, 2012).

With the rapid addition of the names of heads of over 100 more local authorities, plans to petition the government for a third time are underway. 
Of the 1,789 heads of local authorities across Japan (a number that includes prefectural governors), 1,558 are leading the municipalities that issued non-nuclear declarations as of July 1, 2012.

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