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Hiroshima for Global Peace

1.2 Why Now?

Nuclear disarmament stands at a critical moment. On the one hand, recent developments have renewed our hope that we are moving toward nuclear arms reduction. President Obama recommitted the United States to nuclear elimination speaking with force and passion his vision of a ‘world without nuclear weapons’ in his Prague speech of April 2009, a rare instance for an American president to advocate not only the reduction but also the abolition of nuclear weapons. Related developments include the Japan-Australia initiative to establish the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND), which proposed a program for comprehensive nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation; the new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) from the United States, which, by clearly outlining the negative security assurance, opened a path for reducing the temptation for nuclear proliferation; adoption of the Final Document with a 64-item action plan at the Review Conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and, last but not least, the signing and ratification of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) by the United States and Russia. Such developments underscore that we are making progress toward a ‘world without nuclear weapons.

On the other hand, we recognize many challenges to achieving nuclear disarmament. Nuclear proliferation has reached an alarming degree, and it has expanded to a region that was previously free from nuclear weapons. Major reductions in the American and Russian nuclear arsenals should be welcomed, but progress in Russo-American strategic arms reduction does not ensure non-proliferation or nuclear arms reduction in other regions and nations. In fact, nuclear proliferation to North Korea and the apparent lack of progress in the Six-party Talks have reaffirmed, not weakened, the dependence on nuclear deterrence in the East Asian region. Nuclear disarmament between the US and Russia alone will have only a limited impact on nations that find nuclear deterrence or extended deterrence to be essential for their national security.

[Photo Courtesy] UNITAR Hiroshima Office

Moreover, at the same time when initial hopeful signs of nuclear disarmament have started to appear, a new threat has emerged, in the form of nuclear terrorism. The September 11th 2001 attacks should remind us that terrorists seek mass-killing of non-combatants as part of their political agenda. The growth of terrorism is linked to the failure of peace building in many regions around the world including failed states. Therefore, the contributions of Hiroshima should not only be important in reducing the risk of nuclear annihilation but also in building peace as a means to reduce the threat emerging from terrorism.

What should be done? We strongly believe that the use of nuclear weapons is a crime against humanity, and that any peace that depends on nuclear weapons is undesirable and unsustainable. We further believe a disarmament process between the United States and Russia is, although important, still inadequate to ensure the transition to a world without nuclear weapons, and that states other than those with nuclear weapons should be more involved in the process of nuclear disarmament. Such a process should not just end in delegitimizing nuclear weapons in general; we need to focus on specific international tensions and potential military conflicts so that we may seek alternative ways and means for sustainable peace that do not depend on nuclear capability. In short, we must find a way to reduce, minimize, and ultimately eliminate the role of nuclear weapons in international conflicts, in other words, denuclearize international conflicts.

Here we would like to propose a multilateral process of international negotiations that focuses not only on proposals for comprehensive nuclear disarmament but also on denuclearizing potential international conflicts, that is, decreasing the present dependence on nuclear capability for national security. This, after all, was the agenda for nuclear arms control in the heyday of the USSR-US Cold War; we must not forget that the disarmament process between the United States and Russia was only made possible when the leaders of the two nations took initiatives to move from an era of the arms race to a mutual reduction of nuclear weapons, a bold step toward denuclearizing their mutual relations.

Aside from Russo-American relations, such initiatives to denuclearize international conflicts cannot be observed anywhere else today. As things stand, the present disarmament process between the US and Russia will fizzle out in the foreseeable future. If we truly wish a world without nuclear weapons as our future, we must take further steps to reduce the reliance on nuclear weapons in international conflicts beyond Russia-US relations. These efforts should not be limited to Russia and the United States; non-nuclear states have a role to play in nuclear disarmament.