Commenting on Sunday, as Hiroshima marked the 78th year of atomic bombing, officials in the Japanese city lamented the growing support for nuclear weapons as a deterrent, as a result of uneasiness over Russia’s war in Ukraine and tensions in North and South Korea.
The criticism has come two months after Hiroshima hosted a summit of the Group of 7 major industrial nations of the world. At the summit, G7 leaders visited Hiroshima’s peace park and a museum dedicated to those who died in the world’s first-ever atomic attack.
Calling for the continued non-use of nuclear weapons, the leaders issued a joint statement; they also justified the availability of nuclear arms for the purpose of defense, to deter aggression and prevent war and coercion.
However, Hiroshima mayor Kazumi Matsui discarded that stance in his peace address at the commemoration. “Leaders around the world must immediately take concrete steps to lead us from the dangerous present toward our ideal world,” said Matsui. “They must confront the reality that nuclear threats now being voiced by certain policymakers reveal the folly of the nuclear deterrence theory,” he added.
Meanwhile, Hidehiko Yuzai, governor of Hiroshima, raised questions over the growing calls for reinforced nuclear deterrence around the world, including in Japan, ever since Ukraine was invaded by Russia. He also warned of possible nuclear weapons use, even as North Korea advances its missile and nuclear development.
Yuzai said that believers of proactive nuclear deterrence, who maintain that nuclear weapons are indispensable to maintain peace, are doing nothing except delaying the progress toward nuclear disarmament.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida represents Hiroshima in the Japanese Parliament. He has sought to highlight a condemnation of Russia’s threats to use atomic weapons and the G7 commitment to nuclear disarmament. However, he has been faulted by survivors for refusing to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Kishida has pledged to serve as a bridge between nuclear and non-nuclear states and work for nuclear disarmament, arguing that the pact is unworkable because no nuclear-armed state has signed it. Kishida’s critics say that it is a hollow promise because Japan has been rapidly expanding its military and relies on the U.S. nuclear umbrella for protection.
In in response to a more assertive China and the growing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea, Japan, the United States and South Korea are stepping up security cooperation. While Japan wants stronger protection by U.S. nuclear weapons, Washington and Seoul have agreed to strengthen their nuclear deterrence cooperation.
Kishida said that because of rising tensions and conflicts, the path toward a nuclear-free world has grown thornier; he also attended Sunday’s ceremony. However, he said that the situation makes it even more important for the world to regain the momentum.
People present at the ceremony, at the sound of a peace bell, observed a moment of silence at 8.15 a.m. — it was the time when a U.S. B-29 bomber dropped the atomic bomb on the city. Considered symbols of peace, hundreds of white doves were released on the occasion.
Countless survivors of the bombings have illnesses and lasting injuries resulting from the radiation exposure and atomic explosions. Some of them claim that they face discrimination in their own country.
According to the Health and Welfare Ministry, as of March, 113,649 survivors, with an average age of 85, are eligible for government medical support. However, many others are still without support; these include those who say that they were victims of the black rain that fell outside the initially-designated areas. The major urged Kishida’s government to address the wishes of these victims and provide them stronger support.
Known in Japan as hibakusha, ageing survivors keep pushing for a nuclear arms ban and are hopeful that they will persuade the younger generations to join the movement. A group which is led by a number of young supporters, including those from Hiroshima, is making attempts to get the Japanese government to sign the nuclear weapons ban treaty by the year 2030.
The United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 — it destroyed the city and killed 140,000 people. A second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later, on August 9, killing an additional 70,000 people. On August 15, Japan surrendered, ending the Second World War and nearly half a century of Japan’s perceived aggression in Asia.