Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

"Hiroshima and Nagasaki" as Diplomatic Assets
NISHIKAWA Megumi  / Journalist on International Affairs

September 30, 2010
For the first time on August 6 this year, the Peace Memorial Ceremony in Hiroshima was attended by representatives of the United States, the United Kingdom and France, which had heretofore avoided participation in the ceremony. The presence of all the world's nuclear powers marked a moment of great significance. It gave symbolic meaning to "Hiroshima and Nagasaki" - the historic sites of atomic bombing - as a rallying point for moving international politics in the direction of nuclear disarmament.

For 65 years after World War II, "Hiroshima and Nagasaki" had stood aloof from the tide of international politics. Appealing for a world without nuclear weapons by communicating the experiences of the atomic bombings is an admirable stance, and the motive behind the anti-nuclear movement in Japan has undoubtedly been sincere. Still, they had exerted little influence over the course of international politics.

The reason had partly to do with the excessive sense of ethics and fastidiousness that characterized Japan's anti-nuclear movement over the years. And although "abolition of nuclear weapons" had always been a slogan, the movement lacked any persistent efforts to pursue the process for realizing that goal. Neither was there much interest in how to influence the world of real politics. Such moves were scorned as "catering to politics."

However, things began to change toward the end of the 1990s. Foreign Ministry officials in charge of disarmament were invited to conventions and forums for discussion in an effort to transform the movement from one based on accusations to that of proposals. Change also came to the global environment surrounding the movement. Due to nuclear proliferation, the possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of dictatorships and terrorist organizations became a real threat, which has led to mounting public pressure in the world calling for the abandonment of nuclear weapons. In 1998, India and Pakistan became the first nuclear powers to participate in the Peace Memorial Ceremony in Hiroshima, followed by Russia and China. Last year's ceremony was attended by Israel, which is suspected of possessing nuclear weapons.

And in 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama advocated a "world without nuclear weapons" in a speech he gave in the Czech Republic, and in April this year announced a Nuclear Posture Review that significantly reduced the role of nuclear weapons. Such were the events that preceded the attendance in the Hiroshima ceremony by the United States, the United Kingdom and France this year. And that linked "Hiroshima and Nagasaki" to the overall context of international politics. This meant that "Hiroshima and Nagasaki" were recognized as the symbolic rallying point for issues related to nuclear disarmament, including non-proliferation, non-use, nuclear-free zone concepts and abolition. In other words, they were given the symbolism not only of a place to look back in remembrance of the horrors of atomic bombings, but of a place from which to move international politics towards nuclear disarmament.

In Europe, historic sites of important battles and tragic events are given new meaning within the context of international politics that go beyond their place in history. One example is the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. National leaders congregate for a ceremony held in January to commemorate its day of liberation, where the themes of "ethnic collaboration" and " tolerance toward other faiths" are repeatedly emphasized. The stance is not simply about vindicating the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany, but about contemplating the problems faced by Europe today by reflecting on the past.

This is the same with Normandy, France, where an Allied landing operation took place toward the end of World War II. It is now a diplomatic asset for France. On June 4 in each anniversary year, U.S. and European leaders gather for a ceremony in which they confirm the importance of unity and solidarity between the United States and Europe. They discuss the importance of collaborating on issues such as the conflict in Afghanistan, war on terrorism and aid for Africa by reflecting on the close cooperation that was required for the historic landing operation.

"Hiroshima and Nagasaki" will grow in significance along with the anti-nuclear tide of international politics. They are a diplomatic asset for Japan, and I look forward to a creative diplomatic effort by the government that makes the best use of their symbolism.

The writer is Expert Senior Writer on the Foreign News Desk at the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

西川 恵  / ジャーナリスト

2010年 9月 30日








(筆者は毎日新聞 専門編集委員)
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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > "Hiroshima and Nagasaki" as Diplomatic Assets