Dispatches from Nagasaki No.15

Press Reactions to the Nagasaki Declaration of the Pugwash Council – some favorable, some not, much impact overall

The 61st Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs—an international organization that draws together scientists and public figures toward the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons—was held in Nagasaki, Japan, from 1 November through 5 November 2015. Attending the conference was a total of 192 people from 35 countries/regions. The first and third days of this gathering were marked by public sessions at the Commemoration Hall of the Nagasaki University School of Medical Sciences and many pre-registered citizens participated in the sessions. Also held were eight working groups, where participants actively debated issues within their areas of expertise. The conference concluded on 5 November with a formal adoption of the Nagasaki Declaration of the Pugwash Council (http://pugwash.org/2015/11/05/2015-nagasaki-declaration/). We introduce it below by drawing on the reactions of the press.

“Let Nagasaki be the last.” The declaration begins with this message, this plea from atomic bomb survivors (Hibakusha). As for the reason, Jayantha Dhanapala, President of the Pugwash Council, explained that Hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki still suffer from the effects of the nuclear attacks to this day (6 November 2015 edition of The Mainichi Shimbun). The President also urged the world leaders “to heed Hibakushas’ call” and urged that global initiatives should be taken “to aim at legally banning weapons through coalition among states, civil society, and international organizations” (6 November 2015 The Mainichi Shimbun). It was also reported that press coverage of the Pugwash Conference was extensive. Yoshiro Yamawaki, who, presenting the opening speech as a representative of the Hibakusha, said: “I am thankful to the Declaration for urging world leaders to ‘heed the call’ of Hibakusha. Now I wait to see how this will be followed by concrete proposals” (6 November 2015 The Mainichi Shimbun[A1] ).

The declaration calls for all states with nuclear weapons to vow to eliminate nuclear weapons. In addition, with regards to those non-nuclear states that depend on an extended nuclear deterrence (a so-called “nuclear umbrella”), it urges them to revise their security policies and support the establishment of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones. “The declaration called for non-nuclear states under the ‘nuclear umbrella’ — with Japan and other states in mind — to revise their security policies.” (6 November 2015 The Mainichi Shimbun). “The declaration pointed out that ‘the menace of nuclear weapons is still growing,’ and so all states with nuclear weapons must ‘commit themselves not only to reduce but also to eliminate nuclear weapons…. Non-nuclear-weapon states that depend on extended nuclear deterrence also must support nuclear disarmament and change their security policies, for example by joining or establishing Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones, where the use or deployment of nuclear weapons is banned” (6 November 2015 The Yomiuri Shimbun). “The declaration pointed out that nuclear disarmament is stalled and that the menace of nuclear weapons will remain until they are legally banned and their current holders announce the establishment of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones.” (6 November 2015 The Asahi Shimbun)

President Dhanapala stated that he “reconfirmed the needs of security policies that are not dependent on nuclear deterrence.” (6 November 2015 The Mainichi Shimbun). Secretary General of Pugwash Conferences Paolo Cotta Ramusino stated that “it is important to create Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones in the Middle East and other regions” (6 November 2015 The Mainichi Shimbun); and, with regards to the applicability of the declaration, “the Nagasaki Declaration will serve as new pillar to support activities toward our commitment that ‘Nagasaki be the last’ and the establishment of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones” (6 November 2015 The Yomiuri Shimbun).

The declaration also underscores the heavy responsibilities to be borne by scientists. “The 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster reminded us of the importance of nuclear safety and the containment of nuclear technology risks….The social responsibility of scientists is perhaps today more critical than ever.” (6 November 2015 The Mainichi Shimbun). Dr. Masakatsu Yamazaki, Professor Emeritus of the Tokyo Institute of Technology and a leading expert in the history of nuclear technology, expresses some criticism on this point: “I was expecting that the conference would explore the issue of nuclear power from the aspect of human rights, not least those of people who fled the Fukushima meltdowns and still cannot return home, but I apparently misunderstood” (6 November 2015 The Mainichi Shimbun). On the other hand, Dr. Tatsujiro Suzuki, Director of the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (RECNA) at Nagasaki University and also the Chair of the Organizing Committee of Nagasaki Conference, Japan Pugwash, stated that “I consider it a big step forward in that we were able to follow up on a debate over nuclear power by inserting this passage into the declaration: ‘Modern technology is progressing rapidly in many fields. Unless sufficient attention is paid to its ultimate effects on humanity, further dangers may arise’” (9 November 2015, WEBRONZA http://webronza.asahi.com/science/articles/2015110900001.html). President Dhanapala favorably assessed the declaration as “a meaningful accomplishment, in that it marks a return to the principles of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto and shows that we must resort to dialogue, not conflict, in addressing the abolition of nuclear weapons and the societal responsibility of scientists” (6 November 2015 The Asahi Shimbun).

Some articles were critical. “Participants were hoping that scientists would transmit a powerful message from the site of the atomic bombing to the global corridors of power, but the reality is that the current situation is not conducive to cooperation among members of an international conference toward the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons” (6 November 2015 The Mainichi Shimbun). “The declaration has no binding force, and it contains no concrete methods nor even targets toward the elimination of nuclear weapons” (6 November 2015 The Mainichi Shimbun). Dr. Hideo Tsuchiyama, a Hibakusha and former President of Nagasaki University, looked back on the conference thus: “I regret to say that it was just not enough. We had all these experts here, and I was hoping they would make some concrete proposal toward resolving the issues addressed by the Pugwash Conference” (6 November 2015 The Mainichi Shimbun). Yoshitoshi Fukahori, another Hibakusha, said: “With regards to the elimination of nuclear weapons, the international situation remains bleak. We need a breakthrough. And yet, for this, the declaration is too tame, too lacking in ardency (6 November 2015 The Nagasaki Shimbun). Dr. Masao Tomonaga, conference participant and Honorary Director of The Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Genbaku Hospital, was also clear in his criticism of the declaration: “I was hoping for some concrete ideas for action but instead was disappointed by some less-than-deep discussion” (6 November The Yomiuri Shimbun).

In this manner, some spoke favorably of the declaration and others critically. Yet, across this broad range, all seemed to emphasize the importance of building up public opinion. “With modern science & technology rapidly advancing in a variety of areas, the societal responsibilities to be borne by scientists have become heavier than ever. For scientists to meet these responsibilities, they must objectively analyze the impact of science & technology on society and present the public with a good case for going forward with some approach or action. We call upon scientists to enhance their ability to say what, as scientists, they can say with credibility and weight” (8 November 2015 The Mainichi Shimbun). Ryo Morinaga, Chief Editorialist at The Nagasaki Shimbun, expressed this hope: “Looking from the aspect of what international opinion is demanding in terms of nuclear disarmament, we see that the declaration does not say anything new. Yet, it does have an assertion, and we are now in the process of sharing such assertions, again and again, and building them up into a consensus. The message issued by scientists at Nagasaki will provide strong support for those working to build a global coalition toward the elimination of nuclear weapons” (6 November 2015 The Nagasaki Shimbun editorial).

Members of the public too expressed their opinions. In a letter to the editor, Hiroshi Okamoto of Isahaya City writes: “The declaration proclaims ‘let Nagasaki be the last’; and, toward this goal, I think it important that the people of the world join together to build a global consensus toward a legal abolition of nuclear weapons and to compel their governments to act accordingly.” Conference participant Dr. Michiji Konuma, Professor Emeritus of Physics at Keio University, also emphasizes the importance of public opinion: “We seek changes in national security policies, including, for one, an establishment of NWFZs in countries that now rely on a ‘nuclear umbrella.’ A Japan that is unable to muster the will to step out from underneath such an umbrella does not have the credibility to be lecturing the global community. Public opinion has the power to change countries. And it is public opinion that we must strengthen” (8 November 2015 The Nagasaki Shimbun).

Many press accounts express anticipation for the declaration and the role it is to play. Pugwash Council Chair Saideh Lotfian read the declaration aloud, adding that “its release did not mark an end but rather a beginning, a start to something to be remembered forever” (6 November 2015 The Yomiuri Shimbun). Dr. Konuma stressed that “this will not get far if we just discuss it among us scientists. We are trying to create a world without war. We need to involve researchers from a wide variety of areas, we need to involve young people” (6 November 2015 The Yomiuri Shimbun). Tomihisa Taue, Mayor of Nagasaki, favorably assessed the conference and declaration: “People with a variety of ideas and opinions gathered in our city for debate, turning Nagasaki into a forum for dialogue and promulgation. The declaration incorporates the views of the people of Nagasaki and is indicative of who we are” (6 November 2015 The Yomiuri Shimbun).

And thus the 61st Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs drew to a close, leaving us with the Nagasaki Declaration and anticipations for its frequent application and utilization into the future.

Several weeks later, in late November, the Pugwash Council came out with a formal statement (https://pugwashconferences.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/20151125_council-statement.pdf). Gathering attention within it was a call for an end to the reprocessing of nuclear fuels, whether for military or civilian use. “The statement expressed concern over a continual global buildup of plutonium generated during the reprocessing spent fuel from nuclear reactors” (25 December 2015 NHK NEWS WEB (http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20151225/k10010353071000.html)). “Within this world of terrorism and regional strife, one goal is to prevent the diversion of separated plutonium to nuclear weapon production” (26 December 2015 The Mainichi Shimbun (http://mainichi.jp/articles/20151226/k00/00m/040/064000c)). “Whether for energy generation or nuclear weapon production, all countries should cease reprocessing [spent nuclear fuel]” (26 December 2015, The Yomiuri Shimbun, Seibu (Fukuoka), (http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/kyushu/news/20151226-OYS1T50012.html)).

To the Page Top

Dispatches from Nagasaki
  • J-PAND
  • 2nd Essay Contest on a “Nuclear Weapons Free Future”
  • YouTube English Channel
  • YouTube Youth Videos
  • PCU-NC Nagasaki Council
  • nu-nea_project2021-2023
  • Scenario_Project_E