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Still a pipe dream, a nuclear-free world 77 years after the bombs in Japan

Japan commemorated the 77th anniversary of the American nuclear attack on Hiroshima on Saturday.

It is important for Japan to “spell out how realistically we should go forward toward a world without nuclear weapons,” according to the cabinet of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

A nuclear-weapons-free world, however, “remains a remote vision due partly to the lack of progress of nuclear disarmament by the five Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) nuclear weapons states in the previous 20 years,” according to analysts.

The NPT, which went into operation in 1970 and had a total of 191 signatories, aims to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology, support the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and contribute to nuclear disarmament.

The five nuclear-armed nations—China, Russia, Britain, the United States, and France—are among the signatories.

Only Japan has seen nuclear bomb attacks that have claimed tens of thousands of lives and had an impact on present and future generations.

Jingdong Yuan, a nuclear studies researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), told the Anadolu Agency that “in recent years, all of them either enhance their arsenals, reverse on their past vows, or continue with modernization efforts.”

The P-5 (5 members of the UN Security Council who are permanent members) and the NNWS, or non-nuclear weapon states, have been at odds over this issue at the UN Review Conference on the use of Nuclear Weapons, Yuan added.

The SIPRI scholar said that the NNWS “developed and passed a nuclear ban treaty, which is now in effect,” out of frustration with the lack of advancement. However, it is currently quite unlikely to succeed in persuading the P-5 to ratify it.

India, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan are the other four countries that are known to possess nuclear weapons but are not signatories to the NPT. Israel, meanwhile, has neither formally acknowledged or denied possessing nuclear weapons.

Damage to nuclear non-proliferation that is serious

The SIPRI professor added that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), often known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, “to some extent curtailed Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”

Yuan, a professor of international security at the University of Sydney, added: “But the US disengagement during the former Donald Trump administration has allowed Tehran to resume enriching uranium, even to the weapons grade.”

Nuclear nonproliferation would be significantly weakened unless an agreement is reached to undo the harm and go back to the JCPOA’s terms, he said.

The AUKUS “clearly offers another severe challenge to the nonproliferation regime,” he continued.

Canberra will receive nuclear-powered submarines as part of the security agreement between the US, UK, and Australia known as the AUKUS, which was signed last year.

“There are still numerous doubts about safeguards issues, even though the AUKUS members have indicated they will abide by their commitments to nuclear nonproliferation and IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) will be involved,” he said.

The “most dangerous consequence,” according to Yuan, of such actions, including the AUKUS, is that “other countries may follow suit, and the torrent could well shatter the nuclear nonproliferation dam.”

Obama’s 2009 Prague speech, in which he called for a “nuclear-free world,” was referenced by Yuan, but he said that “we are coming back to the world full of obstacles and unpredictability.”

The current UN Review Conference on the use of nuclear weapons, according to the SIPRI professor, “may be a make-or-break one for the future of NPT and indeed the nuclear nonproliferation regime itself.”

Action Plan for Hiroshima

Earlier this week, Kishida introduced the Hiroshima Action Plan at the UN Review Conference and reaffirmed Japan’s “commitment to firmly defend the NPT,” saying it is “intended to contribute to bring about a world without nuclear weapons.”

He is the first head of state from Japan to attend the once every five years summit.

The G7 Hiroshima Summit will be linked to Japan’s efforts to “re-invigorate worldwide momentum on this problem,” according to Kishida.

The UN will get USD 10 million in help from the Japanese prime minister in order to facilitate young people visiting the twin towns of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to learn about the horrors of atomic weapons.

On August 6, 1945, the US detonated nuclear bombs on Hiroshima, the location of the first atomic explosion in history, followed by Nagasaki, killing at least 140,000 people by the end of that year. More than 20,000 Koreans are among the deceased.

On Friday, a monument in Hiroshima bearing 2,802 names of Korean victims was unveiled.

Before and during World War II, Koreans from the then-undivided Korean Peninsula were forcibly transported to Japan.

Locals refer to those who survived the atomic bombing as “hibakusha”.

The mayor of Hiroshima, Kazumi Matsui, stated at a gathering on Saturday, “We must instantly declare all nuclear buttons worthless.”

Since then, Japan has upheld a pacifist Constitution and taken the lead in campaigns to ban the use of nuclear weapons.

A constituency in Hiroshima, a contemporary city on Honshu Island, elected Kishida to power.

museum commemorating peace

A Peace Memorial Museum has been constructed in the two nuclear-impacted cities.

The Hiroshima Museum saw over a million visits a year before the coronavirus pandemic struck, while the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum saw between 600,000 and 700,000.

These figures decreased in 2020 and 2021 but are presently increasing once more.

While maintaining its “strong determination” to steadfastly observe the NPT, Japan has come under fire for relying on US nuclear deterrent for security.

An anti-war organization contributed a “peace clock” that tracks the number of days since the world’s last nuclear test in 2001, when Japan marked the 56th anniversary of the bombings, in the hopes of lowering the number of nuclear testing.

After the community learnt that the US had conducted two nuclear tests in the previous year, the managers of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum reset the clock in April.

For the first time since the Cold War, the worldwide nuclear stockpile is predicted to increase during the next ten years, according to SIPRI.

The institute stated in a paper published last month that nuclear-armed countries are trying to modernize and augment their arsenals at a rate that would likely increase in the following ten years.

It claimed that more than 90% of the 12,705 nuclear weapons in the world are jointly held by the US and Russia.

According to the institute, as of January, China had 350 warheads, France had 290, the UK had 225, Pakistan had 165, India had 156, Israel had 90, and North Korea had 20. Russia had 5,997 and the US had 5,428 warheads.

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