Dispatches from Nagasaki No.7

The Japanese government’s refusal to endorse the Joint Declaration on the Inhuman Nature of Nuclear Weapons draws increasing ire

(July 18, 2013) From April 22 to May 3 of 2013, the Second Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties on the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was held at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva. On April 24, while the conference was underway, eighty countries released a Joint Statement of the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. The fact that the Japanese government did not endorse this statement raised criticisms from a number of quarters.

Among these were various groups and individuals such as associations for atomic bombing survivors, including the Japan Confederation of A-and H-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo), the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren), the Japanese YWCA, the Japan Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (JALANA), groups such as the Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (HANWA) and the Nagasaki Testimonial Society.

Nagasaki atomic bombing survivor Sumiteru Taniguchi (a representative of the Nagasaki Atomic-bomb Survivors Council) said, “It is inexcusable that the government of this atomic-bombed country would think that there is no alternative to clinging to the U.S. nuclear umbrella. The thinking should be that nuclear weapons must never be used no matter what the circumstances (Nishi Nihon Shimbun; April 27, 2013).”

Nagasaki mayor Tomohisa Taue praised the announcement of a joint declaration by eighty countries, saying, “This confirms how significantly these countries view the inhumanity of nuclear weapons and the importance they place on working together. (I believe) this is the result of the appeals we have made with the atomic bomb survivors.” The mayor was critical of the Japanese government’s refusal to sign the joint declaration however, saying “I find it both disheartening and exasperating. I feel not only anger, but also a sense of shame (Mainichi Shimbun, May 3, 2013).” In addition, Mayor Taue stated that (this development) will be reflected in the words of the drafting committee for the Peace Declaration to be issued at the Peace Memorial Ceremony on August 9. “The efforts of the atomic bombing survivors are being trampled on,” he said. “The atomic-bombed nation of Japan is now impeding the cause of eliminating nuclear weapons (Mainichi Shimbun, May 22, 2013).”

In Geneva, atomic bombing survivors and members of non-governmental organizations participating in the Preparatory Committee for the NPT launched a march to protest against the Japanese governmental representatives in attendance. Around seventy people from twenty countries took part. Starting at the United Nations Headquarters, participants marched approximately thirty minutes to the Building of the Permanent Mission of Japan in Geneva, chanting slogans like “No more Hibakusha!” along the way. An atomic bombing survivor from Hiroshima who attended the protest said, “The wishes of Hiroshima have been betrayed. The conduct of the Japanese government is infuriating. We vow to continue pushing for a world free of nuclear weapons (Kyodo News; April 25, 2013).”

Before the announcement on the joint statement was issued, the mayors of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki called on Arms Reduction Ambassador Mari Amano, who is stationed in Geneva, to request that the declaration be signed and approved. Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui said, based upon that step, “Views coordination would have been necessary with the foreign ministry (in Tokyo). In the end, however, they were unable to reach an agreement, something I find unfortunate and unacceptable (Mainichi Shimbun; May 8, 2013).”

Inquiries into the government’s conduct were then made in the National Diet. In the April 26 meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, Diet member Akira Kasai (Japan Communist Party; member of the PNND (Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament), a second-generation survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing, questioned Foreign Affairs Minister Fumio Kishida. He asked, “In his capacity as Minister of Foreign Affairs, does Minister Kishida, whose riding is in the atomic-bombed district of Hiroshima, see any conditions under which the use of nuclear weapons could actually be beneficial to the survival of the human race?” Minister Kishida’s response, as recorded in the Diet minutes, was that, “Various discussions were held with concerned countries” and that (the decision) not to endorse the declaration was “an outcome reached after careful deliberations about whether the wording used was suitable or not in view of the circumstances regarding our country’s security. As for the details of the discussions (with concerned countries) I will refrain from divulging any specifics.”

When the Diet Budgetary Committee of the House of Councilors met on May 8, Minister Kishida responded to a question from House member Masako Okawara (Democratic Party of Japan; member of the PNND) by saying, “As the only nation to have suffered an atomic bombing during wartime, we know better than any other country about the realities of the effects caused by the use of nuclear weapons. I think we can agree to the basic ideas on the use of nuclear weapons outlined in this joint statement, those about how the immediate disaster would be followed by socioeconomic havoc and unbearable damages suffered for generations to come.” The minister spoke of knowing better than other countries about the unbearable damages (caused by the bombing), but by not endorsing the joint declaration which states such weapons should not be used again in any circumstances, what Japan actually does is underline the value of nuclear weapons. This would lead to the conclusion that the phrase “the reality of the damages caused by nuclear weapons” is something that can only be understood in abstract by Foreign Minister.

Kishida’s response led House Member Okawara to remark, “I really wish to have it stated clearly that nuclear weapons cannot be used under any circumstances.” She then asserted, “The world is watching us because we have suffered three times from nuclear exposure, at Hiroshima, Nagasaki and then at Fukushima. So while it may have been said before that nuclear power plants, which inevitably produces plutonium, constituted peaceful use of nuclear energy, I would like it to be realized that even this is being called into account.”

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