Strengthen Momentum for Preventing Use of Nuclear Weapons

With the world’s attention focused more than ever on the cities that fell prey to atomic bombs, Japan has an increasing role to play toward nuclear disarmament.

The city of Hiroshima marked the 78th anniversary of its atomic bombing on Sunday, Aug. 6, and the city of Nagasaki will observe its anniversary on Wednesday, Aug. 9. A peace memorial ceremony was to be held Sunday in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, attended by ambassadors and other representatives of some 110 countries.

Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine and has stepped up its threats to use nuclear weapons. To prevent a repetition of Japan’s nuclear tragedy, there has never been a more important time for the international community to unite than now.

A summit of the Group of Seven advanced nations was held in Hiroshima in May, marking the first time the G7 heads had gathered together in an atomic-bombed city, and the leaders of the G7 nations visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also attended the G7 summit and wrote in the museum’s guest book after the visit that no country in the world should ever experience such pain and destruction as Japan.

Items displayed at the museum include a blood-stained school uniform worn by a child who died in the atomic bombing and a tricycle that was being played with at the time of the explosion. The numerous artifacts that convey the reality of the atomic bombing likely touched the hearts of Zelenskyy and the G7 leaders.

Due in part to the influence of the summit, many foreigners have been visiting the Atomic Bomb Dome and the museum this year. It is hoped that visits by large numbers of people to Hiroshima and Nagasaki will help build momentum for preventing the use of nuclear weapons.

The average age of atomic bomb survivors in Japan is now over 85. The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are fostering “memory keepers” to pass on the atomic bomb experiences of the survivors to the next generation. It is vital to tenaciously continue such efforts.

The situation regarding nuclear weapons is increasingly serious. Russia continues to threaten the international community with such bombs. China’s growing nuclear capabilities need to be guarded against. North Korea’s nuclear and missile developments pose an imminent threat.

The reality is that without the U.S. nuclear umbrella as deterrence, Japan and many other countries would not be able to maintain peace and security. It seems likely that Russia is holding off on the use of nuclear weapons because nuclear deterrence is functioning to a certain extent.

The deepening confrontation between the nuclear nations and nonnuclear countries is also a cause for concern. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that bans the development and possession of nuclear weapons came into force in 2021 at the initiative of nonnuclear nations. Japan, the United States and European countries are among those who have not joined the treaty, claiming that it downplays the significance of nuclear deterrence.

Japan, which knows both the inhumanity of nuclear weapons and their role in maintaining security, must continue its efforts to bridge the gap between the nuclear countries and nonnuclear nations through dialogue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 6, 2023)