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2016.05.21

President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima

One reason why the nuclear weapons are not abolished is they are needed in the actual international politics as deterrent, but the real reason is that people do not have true understanding about the inhumanity of nuclear weapons.

Weapons are inhumane by nature but some of them cause extraordinary consequences so that movements to prohibit these weapons were begun from the end of 19th century. The United Nations further developed and elaborated the concept of inhumanity, and created treaties to ban use of inhumane weapons.

As a result, ‘excessive’ and ‘indiscriminate’ are identified as factors to characterize the inhumane nature of weapons.

The nuclear weapons injure and kill a vast amount of civilians, in addition to the problems that they are excessively injurious and cause indiscriminate effects.
However there is no treaty to ban the use of nuclear weapons whereas other inhumane weapons such as poison gas and anti-personnel mines are banned by treaties.

Nuclear disarmament and prohibition of nuclear weapons are now under debate in the framework of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the United Nations, but reaching agreement on the use of nuclear weapons seems as difficult as their entire abolition. Disagreement between the nuclear weapon states and non nuclear weapon states is so deep.

Under such circumstances, international movements to establish the concept of inhumanity were launched from a few years ago. It was preceded by the advisory opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons by the International Court of Justice which was handed down in 1996. It said that the use of nuclear weapons was in principle against the international humanitarian law, but this was just an “advisory opinion“ that had no legally binding force on states.

A newly launched movement aims to create political consensus by countries on the inhumanity of nuclear weapons.

Even in this movement, however, consensus on the inhumanity of nuclear weapons is not achieved yet because the deterrence theory has a strong influence there too.

Japanese government is recommending world leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and directly feel how inhumane the nuclear weapons and their consequences are. Visit to the cities enables people to understand inhumanity of nuclear weapons through direct “experience”, while global movements described above is to achieve the goal by words. The G7 meeting held at Hiroshima this April was greatly effective to let them feel the inhumanity of nuclear weapons.

What is particularly important here was that feeling the inhumanity of nuclear weapons by direct experience was so different from understanding by words. United States Secretary State John Kerry frankly confessed that he was surprised.

I was the Ambassador of Delegation of Japan to the Conference on Disarmament, and had chances to visit with Western people the memorial museums in Hiroshima and in Nagasaki. I remember so well that they were astonished by what they had seen and felt there because it was quite different from what they had known before.

Actually people’s understanding of the inhumanity of nuclear weapons is not deep enough even though they think they know it intellectually. If they really understand they may become more serious about nuclear disarmament. If they understand the cruelty of nuclear weapons not only by words but also by experience, they can be different. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary for us to correctly understand the real situation of nuclear bombing.

President Obama decided to visit Hiroshima overcoming lots of negative opinions against the visit. Some people were worried that the president would be required to apologize. But that should not happen obviously. President Obama’s decision is of great importance beyond description for nuclear disarmament, and for the US-Japan relationship, and even for world peace.

Hoping the US president will visit Nagasaki too in the near future, I wish the presidential visit to Hiroshima will be completed without difficulty.

(長江隆氏の協力によりTHEPAGEへの寄稿文を英訳)

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