Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons: The Legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki



Section six of ten of SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s 2017 peace proposal, “The Global Solidarity of Youth: Ushering In a New Era of Hope.”

US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in 2016 US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in 2016 [Photo by IIP Photo Archive/CC BY-NC]

My next proposal regarding the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons is that Japan, recognizing its historical responsibility and mission as the only country in the world to have experienced a nuclear attack in wartime, should work assiduously to achieve the broadest possible participation in the upcoming negotiations, including that of states that possess or rely on nuclear weapons.

In recent years, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have contributed to keeping the nuclear weapons issue in the public eye by hosting a series of diplomatic meetings and welcoming the visits of foreign dignitaries.

During the eighth Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) Ministerial Meeting held in Hiroshima in April 2014, foreign ministers of nuclear-dependent countries including Australia, Germany and the Netherlands were able to hear the testimony of hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors). The meeting issued a Joint Statement which stressed that the ongoing discussion on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons should be “a catalyst for a united global action towards the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.”

Then, in April 2016, the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held in Hiroshima. On that occasion, the foreign ministers of the United States, the United Kingdom and France—nuclear-weapon states—and Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan—nuclear-dependent states—visited the Atomic Bomb Dome. The meeting adopted the Hiroshima Declaration on Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, which concludes, “We share the deep desire of the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that nuclear weapons never be used again.”

Finally, in May 2016, US President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima, the first incumbent American president to do so. He stated, “[A]mong those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear, and pursue a world without them.”

Japan should encourage the states that have participated in these discussions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and as many others as possible to take part in the upcoming multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations.

It can be anticipated that the negotiations will face the kind of obstacles encountered by the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) where failure to bridge the divide between the nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states made the adoption of a consensus outcome document impossible.

However, all states certainly share a fundamental appreciation of the importance of the NPT and concern about the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons. This provides the basis on which states can find common ground and reframe the nuclear weapons debate.

related article Abolishing Nuclear Weapons: Moving Past Deterrence Abolishing Nuclear Weapons: Moving Past Deterrence The threat posed by nuclear weapons is growing and the logic of nuclear deterrence only increases the likelihood of war. A US-Russia summit, including dialogue on removing weapons from high alert, would reinvigorate the nuclear disarmament process. In this connection, there are important lessons to be learned from the negotiations leading up to the Paris Agreement, which marked a turning point in the effort to combat climate change. The breakthrough that made the agreement possible was the result of focusing on the shared goal of a low-carbon future, a desirable outcome for all states, rather than on the question of responsibility for having caused climate change or for responding to it.

A similar approach could be taken for nuclear weapons. The work of establishing a treaty prohibiting the production, transfer, threat of use or use of these weapons should be viewed as a global enterprise with the goal of preventing the horrors of nuclear war from ever again being experienced by any country. Earnest efforts must be made to find a way to reach a consensus based on this vision.

As stated in its preamble, the adoption of the NPT was motivated by an awareness of “the devastation that would be visited upon all mankind by a nuclear war” and of the need to “safeguard the security of peoples.”

The fundamental stance of the upcoming conferences is thus fully congruent with the NPT. A treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons would not supplant the NPT, but rather reinforce it as an implementation of Article VI, which requires the pursuit of good faith negotiations leading to complete nuclear disarmament.

What is crucial here is to ensure the participation of as many states as possible in order to identify points of confluence between national security and defense concerns and the quest for a world without nuclear weapons.

The first Preparatory Committee for the 2020 NPT Review Conference is scheduled to meet in Vienna in May. Along with a focus on the obligation to realize nuclear disarmament stipulated in Article VI, there should be an effort to mutually acknowledge the security concerns of all states and to exchange views on the steps required by all parties to address those concerns. If these deliberations were to feed into the negotiations on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons to be convened in June in New York, this would be beneficial to all states. Ensuring linkages with the NPT Review Conference deliberations and bridging the gap between different perspectives will help make the negotiations truly constructive.

The issue of nuclear weapons is a crucial one that has confronted the UN since its founding more than seventy years ago. The complexities surrounding the upcoming negotiations on their prohibition should not be underestimated. However, I am confident that if states continue to earnestly pursue dialogue, it will be possible to build irreversible momentum toward a world without nuclear weapons.

A high-level UN conference on disarmament is slated to be held no later than 2018. The adoption of a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons would enhance conditions for initiating a process of major reductions in current nuclear stockpiles, leading to their eventual elimination.

Previous    Next

─── other articles ───

our story

page top