JCP leader to Obama: Yes we can — have a nuclear weapons-free world

Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo on April 28 met Jim Zumwalt, charge d’affaires ad interim in U.S. Embassy Tokyo and handed him a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama calling on him to take the initiative in starting international negotiations aimed at abolishing nuclear weapons.

The text of the letter is as follows:

April 28, 2009
The President of the United States of America

The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Obama,

I am writing this letter to you, on behalf of a political party that has worked resolutely for the elimination of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth, hand in hand with the people of Japan, the only A-bombed nation, which suffered untold disasters.

I was deeply impressed to read your speech delivered on April 5 in Prague in which you said, ‘I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.’ For the first time, the United States, the biggest nuclear-weapon state in the world, put forward its national goal of ‘a world without nuclear weapons,’ namely the elimination of nuclear weapons.

You also said in the speech, ‘as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act.’ You made clear to the world for the first time as U.S. president that the dropping of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was an event that has a bearing upon human morals and talked about the U.S. having a responsibility to work for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

You added in the speech, ‘To denounce or shrug off a call for cooperation is an easy but also a cowardly thing to do. That’s how wars begin. That’s where human progress ends.’ By so saying, you called on all nations to cooperate for establishing ‘a world without nuclear weapons,’ and stressed that ‘voices for peace and progress must be raised together.’

That you made such official declarations as a U.S. president is of historic significance for both humanity as a whole, and the people of the world’s only A-bombed country in particular, which I heartily welcome.

However, I beg to differ with you when you said in the speech: The goal of a world without nuclear weapons will not be reached, ‘perhaps not in my lifetime.’ I cannot agree because nuclear-weapon states have never engaged in negotiations for the elimination of nuclear weapons as their common goal, and therefore, we cannot set a timeframe in advance for how long it takes, as this is a task no one has ever tackled.

After its establishment, the first United Nations General Assembly resolution adopted on January 24, 1946 decided, in response to the proposal by six countries including yours, and with the support of all the member countries, that the United Nations will work for the ‘elimination of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction.’ But in the 63 years since then, the nuclear-weapon states have not even called for negotiations for their elimination, not to mention entering into such negotiations.

By demonstrating the initiative for ‘a world without nuclear weapons,’ you will open up the door to a challenge that no one has ever undertaken. It might take long to proceed from a call for negotiations to their actual opening, and then to reach agreement. This is an historic undertaking that demands ‘patience and persistence’ as stressed in your speech. But it is only by taking the leadership in starting this undertaking that your speech in Prague will exercise its real power to bring about progress and world peace. Consequently, I strongly request that you take the initiative for starting international negotiations for the conclusion of an international treaty for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

In your speech in Prague, you promised to take ‘concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons.’ These include starting negotiations for a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, pursuing the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and a new treaty that verifiably ends production of fissile materials intended for use in nuclear weapons. I believe that these concrete steps can have a positive and constructive significance when they are tackled together with the goal of elimination of nuclear weapons.

Having seen these kinds of negotiations on partial measures, I am convinced that the whole process has proved that ‘a world without nuclear weapons’ cannot be achieved only through these measures in the absence of the objective of abolishing nuclear weapons themselves. Indeed, this is clearly demonstrated by the fact that there are still more than 20,000 nuclear weapons stockpiled all over the world.

As an illustration, we cannot forget that the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space, and Under Water (Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, PTBT) concluded in 1963, banned nuclear tests in the atmosphere, but that it actually legitimized underground nuclear tests, and, in the end, triggered a massive nuclear arms race.

The same holds true for the regime of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This is a discriminatory treaty unprecedented in history because it allows the five powers to possess nuclear weapons while imposing on non-nuclear-weapon states an obligation of non-possession. The Japanese Communist Party is of course against an increase in the number of nuclear-weapon states for any reason, but it has at the same time criticized the discriminatory inequality of the treaty.

The international community accepted such inequality only because the nuclear powers pledged that they would make sincere efforts for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Yet the existence of this treaty has not prevented new nuclear-weapon states or those planning to go nuclear from coming into existence. To be candid with you, underlying this is the fact that the nuclear powers have not been true to their pledge in the last 39 years since the NPT entered into force.

Above all, it is regrettable that the previous U.S. government and other countries disaffirmed in the 2005 NPT Review Conference ‘an unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon States to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals’ that had been agreed upon in the 2000 NPT Review Conference. Mr. President, you stated in the Prague speech, ‘(the NPT regime) could reach the point where the center cannot hold.’ We have to stress that underlying your fear is the fact that the nuclear-weapon states have maintained the said attitudes for the last 39 years.

The way out of this danger will come when the nuclear-weapon states adopt an attitude of sincerity and responsibility for the elimination of nuclear weapons. We must stress that only when they tackle the task of eliminating nuclear weapons, will they obtain the political and moral power to dissuade other countries from pursuing nuclear weapons. I sincerely hope that the nuclear-weapon states confirm the ‘unequivocal undertaking’ towards the elimination of nuclear weapons in the 2010 NPT Review Conference.

As regards the Japan-U.S. relationship, the JCP’s basic policy is to turn it from the present one of domination-subordination to one of equal footing. Our firm belief is that only under an equal relationship can we develop real friendship between our two peoples. On this mutual relationship, there are many differences of opinion between your government and our party. Nevertheless, I dared to focus, and wanted to convey our opinion, on one point, the task for all humanity, namely the elimination of nuclear weapons.

The only guarantee against nuclear weapons being used is to create ‘a world without nuclear weapons.’ You raised this major goal to the world. Let me repeat once again that I welcome your statement, and hope that the spirit of your statement will be given full play in world politics. I would like to conclude my letter with a wish for the friendship between the United States and Japan to develop.

Sincerely yours,

Kazuo Shii

Chairperson of the Executive Committee

Japanese Communist Party

Member of the House of Representatives, National Diet