(社説)被爆69年の夏に 核兵器の違法化・禁止を

August 06, 2014
EDITORIAL: Ban nuclear weapons on humanitarian grounds
(社説)被爆69年の夏に 核兵器の違法化・禁止を

“Remember Hiroshima, Nagasaki,” goes the refrain in “Remember,” a number released last year by singer Shinobu Sato (lyrics by Rei Nakanishi, music by Kisaburo Suzuki). Since then, Sato has been singing this song at concerts all over Japan.
 ♪リメンバー ヒロシマ・ナガサキ

Why “remember”? It was often quoted by artist and nuclear disarmament activist Yoko Ono, who insisted that Japan, the world’s sole victim of nuclear attacks, should keep telling the rest of the world to “remember.” She explained, “There are too many people who don’t remember, aren’t there?”

She went on to express her wish that people around the world would imagine and understand the horrors of nuclear bombs before they say, “No more.”

Ono’s wish echoes the desperate appeals that hibakusha (atomic-bomb survivors) have been making to the international community for decades. Their appeals have often been ignored in the coldly calculating setting of international politics and nuclear disarmament negotiations.

But in this 69th year since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the inhumanity of nuclear weapons is being highlighted anew.

Momentum is surging among nations that are seeking total nuclear disarmament and asking, “Why can’t we ban nuclear weapons altogether on humanitarian grounds?”


In violence-torn Ukraine, Iraq, Gaza and elsewhere, many lives are being lost even as we speak.

Some people think all lethal weapons are equally inhumane, be they nuclear, chemical or conventional missiles or guns. Still, nuclear weapons should be considered differently from the rest.

Over the last two years, four international conferences have been held about nuclear weapons, and each conference has produced a joint declaration condemning their inhumanity. The number of participating nations in support of these declarations has grown each time, from 16 to 34, 80 and 125.

In February this year, as many as 146 nations gathered in Nayarit, Mexico, for the International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, although none of the five major nuclear nations--the United States, Russia, France, Britain and China--was in attendance.

Summing up the current state of affairs at the conference, the chairman noted that the impact of any nuclear detonation can spread far enough to cross national borders and that the effects of the destruction of infrastructure and health damage from radiation will remain for an extremely long time. But no matter how badly relief work is needed, no country or international organ is fully equipped to handle it, the chairman pointed out.

Yet, he continued, there is no end to countries and terrorist groups that seek to possess nuclear weapons, and the danger of nuclear detonation by mistake or as an act of terror keeps increasing.

The chairman’s observation echoed what many people have been thinking: When nuclear weapons that cause tremendous damage already exist in mind-boggling numbers, on what grounds can anyone ever say that the human race will still survive?


In the latter half of the 20th century, humanity came face to face with grave challenges, such as global warming and the depletion of resources from mass consumption. As a result, we have come to accept certain limitations to our daily activities, if that is what will help the human race survive.

We believe the same sort of attitude is needed on matters of security. We cannot just sit and do nothing when we already have more than enough nuclear weapons hanging over our heads, so to speak, to drive the human race and civilization to extinction.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty restricts the possession of nuclear weapons to the five major nuclear nations and requires them to proceed with nuclear disarmament with sincerity. But the treaty has proved less effective than expected because of the deeply ingrained belief that the “power of nuclear deterrence” guarantees the safety of the nation.

Given this situation, we must return to the basics and ban nuclear weapons on humanitarian grounds. We can start by prohibiting the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons, and then proceed to banning their use under all circumstances, until they are completely eliminated.


At the Nayarit conference, five atomic-bomb survivors were given more than one hour to make their presentations. This was unprecedented on a diplomatic stage.

Setsuko Thurlow, a Canadian resident, was 13 years old when she survived the Hiroshima atomic bomb 69 years ago. She gave a vivid account in English of how her classmates and relatives died before her eyes. The majority of more than 70 conference attendees who participated in a general discussion session voiced empathy with what the hibakusha had to say.

In wrapping up the conference, the chairman called for tangible action, including the drafting of a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. His comments were hailed as a succinct summary of the discussions of the past five years regarding the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, and also as a clear counterproposal to the nuclear nations that continue to rely on their nuclear arsenals.

In December this year, a conference in Vienna will take up where the Nayarit conference left off. Not only the five major nuclear nations, but also as many countries as possible should attend the Vienna conference and hear the discussions.

Three times in the past, the Japanese government refused to endorse joint statements condemning the inhumanity of nuclear weapons, and came under harsh criticism from the mayors and citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for “contradicting its stated policy of seeking total nuclear disarmament as the government of the A-bombed nation.” But at Nayarit, the Japanese government finally came around.

Mayors for Peace, presided over by the mayor of Hiroshima, currently has an active membership exceeding 6,000 mayors around the world. With a growing nuclear risk now being felt globally, it appears that so many mayors are participating in the latest Mayors for Peace conference because they are aware of the sense of crisis being felt by the public at large.

Matters of national security must not be left to the government alone to decide. Whether something deviates from human decency is for us, ordinary citizens, to determine. Let us always bear that firmly in mind.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 6

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