Japan peace movement: Moving toward a world without nuclear weapons

Following is an article published on July 23 by the peace issues team of the Japanese Communist Party’s People’s Movement Commission regarding the 2009 World Conference against A and H Bombs, August 3-9 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

This year’s World Conference against A and H Bombs will take place in the changing international situation as represented by the U.S. Obama administration’s declaration of a “world without nuclear weapons” as a national goal of the United States.

Noteworthy progressive changes

The Group of Eight (G8) summit held recently in L'Aquila, Italy, the first with U.S. President Barack Obama attending, issued a statement on non-proliferation on July 8, which states, “We are all committed to seeking a safer world for all and to creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.” This is the first G8 summit document to refer to the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

Last year’s G8 summit was held in Japan, the only atomic bombed country. In its paragraph concerning non-proliferation, the summit Declaration mentioned “nuclear disarmament” and just stated, “We welcome all nuclear disarmament efforts, notably the ongoing reductions of nuclear weapons that the nuclear-weapon States among G8 members have made so far” that include France, Germany, Russia, Britain, and the United States.

This year’s G8 summit declaration marked a sea change in this regard.

The U.S. and Russian presidents held talks on July 6, prior to the G8 Summit, and agreed on a new framework for the reduction of their strategic nuclear weapons. This is the implementation of one of the three goals U.S. President Obama put forth in his Prague speech as part of the effort to achieve a “world without nuclear weapons.'

As regards the two other goals, an effort is under way in the United States to get the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty” ratified by the U.S. Senate, and negotiations are expected to begin toward the conclusion of a cut-off treaty banning the production of fissile materials intended for use in nuclear weapons.

Conclude an international agreement to abolish nuclear weapons

If a “world without nuclear weapons” is to be achieved through these efforts, the pursuance of partial measures is not sufficient. It is necessary to build an international consensus and conclude an international convention aimed at the total elimination and prohibition of nuclear weapons.

In fact, no negotiations regarding nuclear weapons have been conducive to the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Take the partial nuclear test-ban treaty, for example, and you will find that it has served as a mechanism for “nuclear arms race” that left underground nuclear tests unrestricted. This is a natural consequence of negotiations held without the goal of banning nuclear weapons.

Mitsuru Kurosawa, professor at Osaka Jogakuin College, who is well versed in the history of disarmament negotiations, said, “President Obama makes a difference in the sense that he insists on the need to set a clear goal with far-reaching targets while at the same time proceeding with concrete disarmament measures.”

However, the possible danger is that the ongoing U.S.-Russia nuclear disarmament talks could go astray under the pressure of vested interests and calculations of nuclear powers without establishing an agreed prerequisite that nuclear weapons are unnecessary and that they should be totally eliminated.

Need to increase public awareness

The idea of setting the elimination of nuclear weapons as a national task is being debated in the United States.

The Council on Foreign Relations, an influential U.S. think tank, has published a report on U.S. nuclear weapons policy. Former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry, one of its authors, said that there were different views regarding establishing a nuclear weapons free world as a national goal, pointing out that some say that while this was a desirable goal, it is not feasible and that some are still convinced it is not desirable.

President Obama in his Prague speech criticized those who doubt whether it’s worth setting a goal that seems impossible to achieve. Whether or not the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons should be achieved in international politics depends on the future increase of public opinion of peoples throughout the world.

The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in 2010 will discuss the 2000 agreement on the “unequivocal undertaking of eliminating nuclear arsenals.'

International movements standing firm for the total elimination of nuclear weapons are also increasing. The Non-Aligned Summit on July 16 declared that clearly stating the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons is the only way to establish a world free of nuclear weapons. In order to increase the global movement for the abolition of nuclear weapons, we hope that delegates from governments as well as peace movements will hold earnest discussions at the World Conference.