Convey message of peace to world on atomic bombing anniversaries

Even under the severe circumstances of the novel coronavirus pandemic, efforts to hand down the tragic memories of the atomic bombings to the next generation must continue unabated.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki will mark the 76th anniversaries of the atomic bombings on Aug. 6 and Aug. 9 respectively. A peace memorial ceremony is to be held in Hiroshima on Aug. 6, attended by ambassadors and others from around the world.

The Olympics, an event symbolizing peace, is also underway. Efforts must be made to spread messages of peace so that the objective will be widely shared.

The number of visitors to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum fell by 80% last fiscal year on a year-on-year basis due to the coronavirus pandemic, because students on school trips and overseas tourists could not visit the museum. The opportunities for atomic bomb survivors to directly pass down their experiences from generation to generation have also decreased significantly.

According to a survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun and the Center for Peace at Hiroshima University, many of those who engage in activities to share their experiences of the atomic bombing are concerned that the horror and inhumanity of nuclear weapons will be forgotten if nothing is done.

A new way of passing down history should be considered. It has become important to devise ways to actively share information in multiple languages through such measures as promoting lectures online and digitizing testimonies and exhibition materials.

If people around the world can come in contact with some aspects of the reality of the atomic bombings through the internet, it will help build international momentum.

About 9,000 atomic bomb survivors died last fiscal year. The average age of the remaining survivors is nearly 84. It is significant to preserve their precious testimonies in a form that can be used.

It was five years ago that former U.S. President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima and called for the abolition of nuclear weapons. However, the global situation regarding nuclear weapons has rather deteriorated since then.

The United States and Russia have reduced the number of nuclear warheads in their arsenals, but increased the number of warheads in deployment. China has increased the number of nuclear warheads in its arsenal and is reluctant to discuss arms reduction. The threat posed by North Korea is also growing.

The reality is that without relying on the U.S. nuclear umbrella, it is impossible to ensure peace and security in the region around Japan.

In January this year, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which comprehensively bans the use and other purposes of nuclear weapons, took effect. However, nuclear powers and many countries protected under nuclear umbrellas did not participate in the treaty.

Japan also has not joined the treaty, claiming that it would undermine the legitimacy of the U.S. nuclear deterrent, among other reasons. The treaty could exacerbate conflicts between nations.

First of all, it is vital to make North Korea, which possesses nuclear weapons, and Iran, which is suspected of possessing them, give up their nuclear ambitions, and facilitate disarmament talks in a constructive manner, with the involvement of nuclear powers.

It can be said that Japan, as the only country to have experienced atomic bombings and as one that is still surrounded by neighbors that possess nuclear weapons, has a responsibility to lead such realistic efforts.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Aug. 6, 2021.