Photo/IllutrationRobert Gallucci, far left, makes a point at the July 30 international symposium, as Rebecca Johnson, Mitsuru Kurosawa and Tatsujiro Suzuki look on. (Motoki Nagasawa)

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NAGASAKI--In his recent historic visit to Hiroshima and speech at the Peace Memorial Park, U.S. President Barack Obama again laid out his vision striving for a nuclear-free world.

However, the audience at a symposium here on July 30 in the city that was leveled by the second atomic bombing received a wake-up call to the many paradoxes, perversity and dilemmas facing the world before Obama's dream can be realized.

The International Symposium for Peace 2016, titled "The Road to Nuclear Weapons Abolition: Obama Years and Beyond," was held at the Nagasaki Brick Hall facility, located in an area destroyed by the atomic bombing on Aug. 9, 1945.

The event was organized by the Nagasaki city government, the Nagasaki Foundation for the Promotion of Peace and The Asahi Shimbun. Among the many organizations that provided additional backing are the Hiroshima city government and the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation.

The keynote speech was given by Robert Gallucci, a former U.S assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, who was also involved in difficult negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.

He explained the aspects involved in the concept of nuclear deterrence.

"Deterrence is actually a curious concept with some perverse characteristics," Gallucci said. "Deterrence is as much psychological as physical, and nations that depend on deterrence for their security, as we do, are betting that they understand foreign leaders' risk propensities and tolerance for the threat to retaliate."

But, he added, the deterrence concept was complicated and many related issues were "marked by paradox."

He explained the U.S. commitment to keeping its nuclear arsenal "safe, secure and effective."

That commitment has led to the setting aside of $1 trillion (about 102 trillion yen) over three decades to "modernize" the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Gallucci described a deterrent logic in which "by making U.S. nuclear weapons 'easier' to use, the credibility of our deterrent is enhanced, and the likelihood that they will have to be used is reduced."

He continued, saying, "The paradox here is clear: by making the use of a nuclear weapon plausible, easier for a decision-maker to elect, deterrence is supposed to be enhanced, and the likelihood of use reduced."

However, Gallucci also stressed that a rapid push toward no nuclear weapons could have other unintended consequences that would raise the risk of nuclear war.

"We should recognize that in most of these cases there are no risk-free options," he said. "There is no free lunch, as we like to say in New York. Our task is to figure out how to calculate the risks and, most important, how to manage and reduce them."

In the panel discussion that followed, Tatsujiro Suzuki, the director of the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition at Nagasaki University, addressed Japan's own nuclear dilemma.

Suzuki touched upon two main areas--national security policy and nuclear energy.

"The first dilemma facing Japan is how to reconcile its ultimate goal of abolishing nuclear weapons, with its dependence on the 'nuclear umbrella' deterrent provided by the United States," Suzuki said.

The second dilemma, according to Suzuki, was the relationship between its continued dependence on nuclear energy with the nuclear fuel recycling program, which leads to the accumulation of large volumes of plutonium, which could be used as fissile material for nuclear weapons or stolen by terrorists seeking to build such weapons.

OBAMA'S REPORT CARD

Mitsuru Kurosawa, a professor at Osaka Jogakuin University and professor emeritus at Osaka University, focused on Obama's speeches in Prague in April 2009, when he first laid out a vision for a nuclear-free world, as well as his speech in Hiroshima on May 27, when he became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the city devastated by an atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945.

Kurosawa said the report card for Obama in actual implementation of measures to reduce the threat from nuclear weapons would have to be a mixed one because while a new treaty was signed with Russia, the United States has still not ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and another treaty regulating fissile material has also not been agreed to.

However, Kurosawa also said the visit to Hiroshima by Obama has struck down a long taboo.

"Future visits to Hiroshima and Nagasaki by leaders of other nations, especially the nuclear powers, will become much easier," Kurosawa said.

Kurosawa also touched upon Obama's call in his Prague speech to put an end to Cold War thinking.

"The Japanese government should not hinder any move by the United States to declare a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons," he said. Kurosawa touched upon reports that some in the Abe administration are opposed to a no first use policy because they feel that would diminish the deterrence factor in relation to North Korea.

Rebecca Johnson, director of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy who was once an anti-nuclear weapons activist, focused on the need to turn to other leaders for a movement toward abolishing nuclear weapons.

She said that even leaders like Obama, whose heart might be in the right place, become steeped in political realism.

"That makes it impossible to do more than speak the rhetoric of disarmament but not be able to make really significant disarmament happen," she said. "A realist looks at that situation and says to change the facts on the ground, we have to look to different leadership, from a non-nuclear nation. Those nations have already chosen to give up on the idea of having this magic deterrence as part of its security policy."

She added that the humanitarian approach to abolishing nuclear weapons derives its learning from the impotence of leaders such as Obama to make the necessary changes while they are in office.

In touching upon the various complexities and difficulties brought up by Gallucci, Suzuki said, "We in Nagasaki and Hiroshima should not abandon efforts (to abolish nuclear weapons) in the face of the severe reality outlined by Gallucci."

Even Gallucci acknowledged the role that could be played by Nagasaki and its peace museum exhibits.

"You have something uniquely horrible to contribute to the thinking that goes into the minds of citizens and leaders, and I don't want you to lose that,” he said.

LISTENING TO HIBAKUSHA

Before the keynote speech and panel discussion, a dialogue session was held between two individuals who have relatives who are hibakusha, or atomic bomb survivors.

Movie director and actress Kiki Sugino was born in Hiroshima and her grandmother is a hibakusha. The writer Risaku Kiridoshi's mother was in Nagasaki when the atomic bomb was dropped.

They spoke about the Obama speech as well as the difficulties and importance of passing down the experiences of hibakusha.

"Rather than speaking as a representative of the United States, I felt he was speaking as one human being," Sugino said.

With her movie background, she added that the speech felt "like a movie because there was a lot of room in the margins for listeners to make different arguments about what he said."

She also said that it was only in 2015, the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb, that she asked her grandmother for the first time to talk about her experience as a hibakusha. Through those conversations, Sugino learned that a close relative had perished in the atomic bombing.

Sugino said she had hesitated for a long time about asking her grandmother because she was afraid that it would bring back horrible memories.

That was a similar theme touched upon by Kiridoshi, who recently published a book about his own dialogue with his mother about her experiences in Nagasaki. That came about only after many years during which his mother did not write directly about her hibakusha experience.

His mother, Michiko Kano, who was also in the audience, summed up what may be a common feeling among hibakusha.

"I wanted to talk about my experiences but no one asked because they felt sorry for me," Kano said. "It was only when my son asked that I began talking, and he put that into a book so now I am glad that he did ask me. I also have a strong feeling about how to apologize for continuing to live after so many people died (in the atomic bombing)."

The need to listen to hibakusha might have been spurred by the phrase used by Obama in his Hiroshima speech of, "Someday the voices of the hibakusha will no longer be with us to bear witness."

THE YOUNGER GENERATION

Two members of the future generation also expressed their thoughts about what they want to do in taking up the banner for working toward the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Two Nagasaki University students who were part of the Nagasaki Youth Delegation in Hiroshima for the Obama speech presented a report about what transpired that day and what effect it had on them.

Hayato Kawano, a senior, said he was deeply impressed by the frequent use by Obama of the word "choice" in his Hiroshima speech.

"I felt the use of 'choice' was aimed at those of us in future generations who must make the choice about working toward a nuclear-free world," Kawano said.

Soichiro Hide, a junior, said he had been motivated by the speech to do what he could to further spread understanding about what occurred in Nagasaki 71 years ago.

Part of that will involve going to Germany from August for a year to study about political education in that nation to think about how such methods can be converted for use in peace education efforts in Japan.