Japan Can’t Have It Both Ways: We Must Act on Nuclear Disarmament

The Japanese administration has settled on abandoning the nuclear armament prohibition measure Austria circulated around the U.N. It seems this is in response to pressure from the U.S. to avoid any effects such a measure would have on allies under its “nuclear umbrella.” There’s no excuse for Japan, the only country to ever have been victim to a nuclear attack, to not stand in favor of a measure that would ban possession of nuclear arms.

Next month Austria will submit materials to the review conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in New York, with the goal of standardizing the debate on nuclear disarmament. The documents follow a general message along the lines of, “No matter how you look at it, it is to the benefit of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again.” Certainly, this is undeniable. There’s really no good reason to disagree.

The Japanese administration has justified its “no” answer by stressing the importance of maintaining consistency with the U.S.-Japan alliance, which is built upon a security treaty that includes Japan in the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Yet 70 years ago, on Aug. 6 and 9, the country that dropped nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the United States. Due to those attacks, over 210,000 Japanese citizens had their lives stolen from them. I wonder if this administration could look any of the surviving victims in the eye and say that nuclear weapons are a “necessary evil” for the sake of the U.S.-Japan alliance.

Last year in August, at ceremonies for the nuclear bomb victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged the following: “As the only nation in history to have ever suffered the horrors of nuclear bombing, we Japanese have an obligation to ensure the realization of a world free of nuclear weapons.” For the administration to not agree to this most recent U.N. measure is clearly not in line with the prime minister’s supposed resolve. There’s simply no way to judge this behavior as anything other than duplicitous.

Currently there are about 16,400 nuclear warheads remaining in the world, with about 90 percent of them held by Russia and the U.S. alone. In comparison, over 150 countries participated in last year’s second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, comprised almost entirely of nations which are not in possession of nuclear armaments. The demand for the prohibition of nuclear weapons is the voice of the world at large. It is with them that Japan should stand.

A report compiled with the aid of organizations including International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War highlights the consequences of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan, explaining that such a conflict would initiate a food crisis that would throw over 2 billion people into climate change-induced famine on a global scale.

Nuclear armaments continue to be a menace to the entire world. As the only country to have suffered a nuclear attack, Japan should take the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II as an opportunity to end this two-faced policy of speaking about the importance of nuclear disarmament while openly relying on a nuclear umbrella built upon the very same weapons we supposedly denounce. President Obama also talks about a world without nuclear weapons, and maybe he can be convinced — but we need to start walking the path of disarmament with sincerity and in good faith.

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