JAPAN | HIROSHIMA PEACE SYMPOSIUM: Experts call for nuclear disarmament

Posted on August 7, 2011


JAPAN | ASAHI SHIMBUN | 7 August 2011

HIROSHIMA–Four experts made their cases for nuclear disarmament at the International Symposium for Peace 2011, held in Hiroshima on July 31.

The following are summaries of their opening remarks, which were abridged and reorganized by The Asahi Shimbun.

The panel comprised of George Perkovich, vice president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Tilman Ruff, chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons; Kazumi Mizumoto, vice president of Hiroshima Peace Institute, Hiroshima City; and Motoko Mekata, professor at Chuo University.


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Perkovich: Lincoln’s struggle over slavery a lesson for nuclear age


I want to consider whether there might be some parallels between the struggle for the abolition of slavery and the struggle for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

The parallel comes to mind not only because in English the same word–abolition–is used to describe both movements, but also because there is a moral dimension that is vital to both objectives.

The main problem in the abolition of slavery was ・that the vast majority of white people in the South and in the North did not want to live in equality with free black people.

This is similar to the nuclear situation today in much of the world.

Leaders in the United States, Russia, France, Pakistan, Israel and probably China feel that their citizens would feel too insecure to abolish nuclear weapons and to rely on other means to prevent adversaries from attacking them.

Slavery was abolished in a radical way, not in the peaceful incremental way that President Abraham Lincoln had originally sought. One million people were killed in the process of the war.

The people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have unique wisdom to give to the rest of the world in this regard. The world has learned much from your pain and still has more to learn.

One way to begin building international confidence that security can be achieved without nuclear weapons is to show restraint in threatening to use these weapons.

No one knows the reality that lies behind the use of nuclear weapons better than citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This gives you distinct credibility in urging states that possess these weapons not to threaten to use them, and not to think or act as if their use would be anything less than a disaster for all of humanity.


George Perkovich is vice president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Task Force on U.S. Nuclear Policy and adviser to the International Commission on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament.


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Ruff: Fukushima not the last unless nuclear power is phased out


The ongoing nuclear disaster in Fukushima horribly compounds the devastating humanitarian tragedy of the massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

It was a disaster waiting to happen–it was only a matter of time, and unless nuclear power is phased out, it will not be the last.

Fukushima showed that reactors and spent fuel ponds are both vulnerable not only to direct damage, but to loss of power, water and cooling.

This could occur through natural disasters, technical failure or human error, but also deliberate attack or disruption in a war or by terrorists.

Therefore, every nuclear reactor and spent fuel storage pond constitutes an enormous, prepositioned potential radiological weapon or “dirty bomb.”

(A study on consequences of nuclear weapons) is a stark reminder of how intertwined are our fates, that there is no place to run or hide, that nuclear weapons anywhere threaten all our futures everywhere.

Any use of nuclear weapons is self-defeating, invites escalation, and tightens the noose of a grim shared fate.

Whether we succeed in eradicating the common enemy of nuclear weapons before they are again used is not in the lap of the gods or the laws of physics: it is in the hands of all of us alive today.

In the end, it is only governments that can abolish nuclear weapons. So it is in the governmental sphere that insistence must be felt.

Before the nuclear era, the great Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore wrote: “We will live in this world for as long as we love her.”

Working for nuclear abolition is a profound and necessary act of love.


Tilman Ruff is chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. A researcher of the influence of nuclear weapons on public health, Ruff is Southeast Asia-Pacific vice president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.


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Mizumoto: Japan needs coherent nuclear-related policies


Japan has four nuclear-related policies: the three non-nuclear principles, the defense policy relying on the U.S. nuclear umbrella, promotion of peaceful use of nuclear energy (nuclear power generation) and the foreign policy for nuclear disarmament. They all have problems.

Behind Japan’s non-nuclear policy, represented by the three principles of not possessing, not producing and not permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons into Japan, lies the anti-nuclear consciousness among Japanese people, stemming from atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But it should be based on the risks of nuclear weapons, as demonstrated in a concrete and objective manner in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Civil society has long called for turning the three non-nuclear principles into legislation to make them legally binding. It is time to consider the proposal seriously.

If we try to have Japan withdraw from the U.S. nuclear umbrella, we must show that the country does not need U.S. nuclear deterrence to deal with threats it faces.

Hiroshima experienced the dangers involved in military use of nuclear energy, and Fukushima experienced the dangers involved in peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Nuclear energy, even if it is applied for peaceful use, exposes human beings to uncontrollable risks, depending on how it is handled.

Japan’s foreign policy for nuclear disarmament has been shackled by contradictions in the other nuclear-related policies.

We need a wide-based national debate to orient the four policies into the same direction.


Kazumi Mizumoto is vice president of Hiroshima Peace Institute, Hiroshima City. An expert on the Japanese government policy on nuclear disarmament, Mizumoto is a member of the Executive Council of the Japan Association of Disarmament Studies. Mizumoto, former chief of the Asahi Shimbun’s Los Angeles Bureau, joined the institute in 1998.


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Mekata: Land mine treaty sets example for nuclear disarmament


An anti-personnel land mine is a small weapon that sits on one’s palm. It can be purchased for as little as 300 yen ($3.76).

Anti-personnel land mines have taken the lives of children and civilians who do not possess arms, instead of soldiers.

Critics began calling for a ban in the 1980s because tragedies continued even after conflicts ended.

Citizens have established a new value–of prohibiting anti-personnel land mines–in society.

A treaty was concluded through collaboration between nongovernmental organizations and governments of Canada and other countries that support their stance.

The process of negotiations that resulted in the treaty opened a new era in which governments and nongovernmental organizations work together.

The end of the Cold War was a key factor that contributed to that process.

After we experienced the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and the ensuing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the viewpoint to judge what is realistic and what is not has substantially changed.

When we call for lowering dependence on nuclear power generation eventually to zero, people would say we should not talk about ideals and should have cool-headed discussions.

Japan suffered the damages caused by nuclear energy in Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Fukushima. We must have the courage to say we fear what we fear and raise our voices.

The public must send out a message and continue to apply pressure on the government to carry out nuclear disarmament.


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Motoko Mekata is a professor at Chuo University’s Faculty of Policy Studies. She serves as a member of the Steering Committee of the Japan Campaign to Ban Landmines and a member of the Executive Council of the Japan Association of Disarmament Studies. She is a researcher of nonprofit organizations and an author of several books.

photoClockwise from top left: George Perkovich, Tilman Ruff, Motoko Mekata and Kazumi Mizumoto (Photos by Takuya Isayama)

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