Friday, March 24, 2017

Nuclear Nothingness

Last month we organized a forum at the University of Guam on nuclear dangers to Guam, both from the nuclear weapons of others, but also accidents involving the nuclear weapons kept on Guam by the US military or the nuclear-powered vehicles that are docked here. It was somewhat disappointing when in a room meant for close to 200 people at the UOG CLASS Lecture Hall, we only had about 40 people in attendance. As one of the speakers on the panel remarked, this is a critical issue, which few people seem to care about. That is one reason why it is so critical. It looms around us, as threats from others or dangers from within, but we don't seem to take it very seriously at all. Robert Underwood once said that living in a colony and not taking decolonization or colonialism seriously is like running a hospital without taking seriously issues of illness and treatment. I would argue a similar thing on Guam in terms of the dangers our heavily militarized existence presents.

In 2010 I traveled to Japan, most specifically to Hiroshima and Nagasaki to represent Guam at an annual conference against atomic and hydrogen bombs. This conference was first started in Japan in their postwar era, after their sovereignty had been returned and the memories of the nuclear blasts in their country was still raw and real. The conference began as part of the shifting national trajectory for Japan, where they were once an imperial aggressor, imbibing in the nectar of imperialism and militarism, but now a loser, a weakened victim of war, looking to create a new identity for itself. The leftist and liberal elements of Japan took it upon themselves to help ensure that there were no more Hiroshimas and Nagasakis, and no more victims of nuclear blasts. This conference was part of that commitment, and each year delegates come from around the world discussing nuclear threats, whether in terms of weapons, energy, testing or contamination in their part of the world.

I still receive regular emails from the organization that organizes this conference Gensuikyo. Some of them are pasted below:

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We Call on the Japanese Government to Participate in the Forthcoming Negotiation Conference and Make Serious Effort to Achieve the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons
March 8, 2017
Japan Council against A & H Bombs (Gensuikyo)

1.  In December 2016, the 71st Session of the U.N. General Assembly adopted the resolution “Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations," to convene a U.N. conference to negotiate a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons with a large majority of 113 votes in favor, 35 against and 13 abstentions.  The conference will be held under the rules of the U.N. General Assembly from March 27 to 31 and from June 15 to July 7, 2017.
As is well known, in the wake of the two world wars, the United Nations was founded for the purpose of saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war.  The abolition of nuclear weapons was set as the primary goal of the U.N., as stated in the very first resolution adopted in its first General Assembly session.  
Above all, Japan, the only atomic-bombed nation in human history, has a historic mission to bear witness to the inhuman damage and sufferings caused by the use of nuclear weapons which are incompatible with human survival, and to call for banning and eliminating nuclear weapons all over the world, as the Hibakusha (A-bomb survivors) have done by telling their A-bomb experiences and appealing to the world through anti-A and H bomb movements.      
 
During these years, the movements of global civil society have worked together with many governments and helped create a new momentum for banning and eliminating nuclear weapons.  Building on the undertaking of the nuclear weapon states to “accomplish the elimination of their nuclear arsenals” in the NPT Review Conference of May 2000, the governments of the NPT states parties, including nuclear weapons states, agreed in the 2010 Review Conference to achieve the “peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons”, and that “all countries should make special efforts to create and maintain a framework” for that purpose.  Today, nearly 80% of the world governments agree on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, and virtually no countries would dare to deny the need for banning nuclear weapons.   
 
At various U.N. conferences and nuclear disarmament forums, the government of Japan has repeatedly declared that it would “take the lead in abolishing nuclear weapons” as the “only country to have suffered from nuclear weapons in wartime.”  In order to prove this pledge, the Japanese government should participate in the forthcoming negotiation conference in March and June.  We urge it to encourage all countries to join the conference, work together with overwhelming majority governments of the world and endeavor to establish the treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, which is the only realistic path leading to their abolition.
 
2.  However, the Japanese government, while claiming to act as a “bridge” between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states, changed its “abstention” and voted against the U.N. resolution to hold the negotiation conference.  It was also absent in the organizational session on February 16, which drew much attention of the world.
We are concerned that this attitude of the Japanese government is closely linked to the U.S. “commitment” to protect its allies by using “nuclear and conventional forces”.  It is totally impossible to take any international leadership in achieving the abolition of nuclear weapons while depending on nuclear deterrence, including use and threat to use nuclear weapons.
The result of adoption of recent U.N. resolutions shows that the overwhelming majority of countries in the world are seeking security through achieving the prohibition of nuclear weapons to prevent the terror of nuclear catastrophe, in spite of resistance of nuclear-armed states and the “nuclear umbrella” states.  In fact, in Asia, it was only Japan and the Republic of Korea that voted “No” to the resolution for starting the negotiation conference for the nuclear weapon prohibition treaty.
 
We urge the government of Japan to support the present world momentum for a total ban on nuclear weapons and to make a drastic shift from dependence on nuclear deterrence to the resolution of international conflicts through peaceful means and the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons, as mandated by the Constitution of Japan.

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Dear friends,
A Happy New Year!
2017 will be a decisive turn for advancing a total ban and the elimination of nuclear weapons.  We welcome the adoption of a historic resolution by the UNGA in 2016 to convene the conference to negotiate a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons in March 27 to 31 and June 15 to July 27, 2017.
In order to bring this historic opportunity to a successful conclusion, we call on you to take actions during the sessions in March and June in your cities, towns and villages all over the world to build up public support for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.  In particular, we call on you living in nuclear weapon states and nuclear umbrella states to make effort to enhance public support enough to change their government pro-nuclear policies.  Our actions are the key to ensuring this first step towards a world without nuclear weapons.  International joint actions are also planned around the UN in New York.
We propose you to include in your actions: 1) Learning of the testimonies of A-bomb survivors (Hibakusha),  2) Holding of A-bomb photo exhibition and 3) Collecting signatures in support of the Appeal of the Hibakusha for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (attached).
We, Japanese movement are determined to take the lead in this action by having the Hibakusha’s testimonies heard, holding A-bomb photo exhibitions at all municipalies in Japan and collectign the Hibakusha Appeal petitions nationwide.  We are going to submit millions of collected petitions to the UN conference in June.  Let’s collect petitions together and jointly submit them to the UN.
In order to promote the action, we ask:
*Please send to us your ideas/messages and action plans.
*If you want to invite a Hibakusha to your actions or get Hibakusha’s testimonies and the A-bomb photo sets, please contact us.
*Please send us your collected signatures.
Thank you.
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September 16, 2016
At the Opening of the 71st Session of the U.N. General Assembly:
We Urge the Japanese Government to Devote All Its Energy to Achieve a Total Ban and Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
The 2016 World Conference against A and H Bombs was convened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki from August 2 to 9. With the participation of 92 overseas delegates from 27 countries as well as Japanese delegates representing a broad range of organizations, the conference concluded successfully after adopting the “Declaration of the International Meeting” on August 4, “Call from Hiroshima” on August 6, and “Letter from Hiroshima to All Governments of the World” on August 9.
We have sent these documents, including the “Letter from Nagasaki” to the heads of states of the 193 member states of the United Nations, and as the collective will of all the participants of the conference, we call on them to make the utmost effort to achieve a total ban and elimination of nuclear weapons.
Hereby we set out our request to the Japanese government:
1. To make every effort to achieve a start of negotiations on a treaty to prohibit and eliminate inhuman nuclear weapons, and especially to make the forthcoming disarmament debate at the U.N. General Assembly an important watershed for this end.  And to deepen the awareness of policymakers on the impact and aftereffects of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and make the inhuman nature of nuclear weapons known broadly to their people.
As is already known, last year the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution on taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations. The Open-ended Working Group convened in Geneva this year adopted by a majority vote Chair’s Report, which includes a recommendation for the U.N. General Assembly to convene a conference in 2017 “to negotiate a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.”
All the 5 nuclear weapon states boycotted the meeting from the standpoint of regarding nuclear weapons as useful for “security”.  Although the Japanese government attended the meeting, it cast an abstention vote to the Chair’s Report.    
Prohibiting and abolishing nuclear weapons is a task that the government of Japan should rightly support and promote, in light of the first resolution of the U.N. General Assembly which called for “elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction”, of the Constitution of Japan that prohibits the use or threat of military forces in solving international conflicts, and also as the government of the only nation that has experienced the atomic bombing in human history.   
We call on the Japanese government to play a leading role in securing the start of negotiations on a treaty to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons and act in concert with this international initiative in the current 71st Session of the UN General Assembly.
2. To stop relying on the use or threat of nuclear weapons and to pursue prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons, peace and the resolution of conflicts through diplomacy based on the Constitution of Japan
We are concerned that the government of Japan, while claiming to “lead the efforts for abolishing nuclear weapons” as “the only A-bombed country in wartime”, is actually dependent on the U.S. nuclear strategy and running counter to both the global trend seeking prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons and the aspiration of the people of the world, including the Hibakusha. It is a striking instance that when the US government indicated the review of its long-held “first use” policy of nuclear weapons, the Japanese government opposed it, saying that it would “weaken nuclear deterrence”.     
Given the ongoing conflicts and current nuclear threat policies and proliferation, it is clear that a total ban on nuclear weapons has now become an urgent task for international community. Selfish argument of nuclear possessing states to keep nuclear weapons as guarantee of security has actually driven nuclear proliferation.  
We urge the Japanese government to stop its reliance on “nuclear deterrence” and make efforts to achieve peace, a total ban and elimination of nuclear weapons and the resolution of conflicts through diplomacy for the sake of the security of Japan, East Asia and world and for the credibility of Japan’s diplomacy. (end)
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Statement of Protest against North Korea’s Nuclear Test

September 9, 2016
YASUI Masakazu, Secretary General
Japan Council against A and H Bombs (Gensuikyo)
Today, North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) conducted its 5th nuclear test. It is a serious challenge to the international community, posing grave threat to peace and security of not only Northeast Asia but of the entire world. It betrays the earnest desire of the Japanese people for the abolition of nuclear weapons, and we file our strong protest against it. 
During these years, in response to the nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches by North Korea, the U.N. Security Council has adopted a series of resolutions (No. 2087, 2094 and 2270) to expand and strengthen sanctions, clearly expressing its will to stop North Korea’s provocative actions. If it wants to stay as a member of the international community, North Korea should accept all these UNSC resolutions, immediately terminate its nuclear and missile development and make a sincere effort for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
At the same time, we urge the countries concerned to redouble their effort to settle this problem by peaceful means, resume the Six-party talks, and increase efforts to achieve a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. We especially call on the government of Japan to stop attempting to strengthen nuclear deterrence = “nuclear umbrella” through the Security-related laws. Instead, as the government of the A-bombed nation, it should propose a total ban on nuclear weapons and take a leading role in achieving the peaceful settlement of the problem. 

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