August 10, 2022 at 12:34 JST
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at the memorial event at Nagasaki Peace Park on Aug. 9. (Minako Yoshimoto)
On the 77th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the cities' hibakusha demanded that Japan sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
But Prime Minister Fumio Kishida did not even mention this agreement in either of the cities where he delivered his address during the annual peace memorial ceremony.
With Russia, a nuclear superpower, threatening to use nuclear weapons in its war of aggression in Ukraine, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' comment--"Eliminating nuclear weapons is the only guarantee they will never be used"--has resonated widely with people around the world.
Kishida calls the TPNW the "exit" that leads to the elimination of nuclear weapons. But we believe the treaty is the "entrance."
Aiming for a "world without nuclear weapons" via multiple routes is Japan's responsibility as the world's only victim of nuclear warfare.
"The only realistic way to protect the future of the human race and Earth is to stop deluding ourselves that we can have nuclear weapons and never use them," asserted Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue in his Peace Declaration on Aug. 9.
Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui also appealed in his Aug. 6 declaration, "We must immediately render all nuclear buttons meaningless."
Both mayors demanded that Japan participate in the TPNW.
But for all his talk of resolving to eliminate nuclear weapons, Kishida stuck to his policy of maintaining distance from the treaty.
Drawn up with input from atomic bomb survivors and non-nuclear nations, the TPNW categorically bans the manufacture and possession of, and any threat of using, nuclear weapons.
The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were deeply disappointed when Japan in June decided to sit out the first TPNW conference, even as just an observer.
On the other hand, Kishida is markedly committed to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
The treaty limits the privilege of possessing nuclear weapons only to the United States, Russia and three other major nations, and holds them responsible for nuclear disarmament talks.
The latest Review Conference of the Parties to the NPT is currently in session in New York, which Kishida attended earlier this month and pledged Japan would act as the treaty's "guardian."
However, the course of the nuclear disarmament talks remains elusive. In fact, concerns are now growing that the nations concerned may even be switching from disarmament to an arms race. Rebuilding the NPT's structure has become a matter of urgency.
With the international security environment growing severer and Japan remaining under the U.S. "nuclear umbrella," can the NPT be relied upon to avert a nuclear disaster?
Japan's role must be none other than to act as a bridge between the nuclear and non-nuclear nations and lead the world toward the elimination of nuclear weapons by treating the NPT and TPNW as the proverbial two wheels.
And that, we believe, was the message delivered by the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Hiroshima is Kishida's ancestral home. When he was the foreign minister six years ago, his foremost political priority was to realize a "world without nuclear weapons," and he played a major role in arranging then-U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Hiroshima.
"No matter how narrow, treacherous and arduous the path, I will keep going," Kishida said at the time of his resolve to pursue his goal.
How is he going to make the best use of the TPNW, which is already in effect? The prime minister's power of imagination and ability to act decisively are being tested.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 10
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