Statement from the Public Symposium
Upon President Obama’s Visit to Hiroshima
Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (HANWA)
The United States dropped uranium and plutonium bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. By the end
of that year, the bombs had taken more than 200,000 lives. To this day, thousands of people are lost every
year to a phenomenon we call “delayed A-bomb death.” Most of those who survived lost family members,
their health, their means of making a living, and have carried a heavy burden of fear related to genetic
effects in succeeding generations.
The Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) experienced an unprecedented, extreme example of inhumanity.
They know in their bones that nuclear weapons are uniquely inhumane weapons, with which humanity
cannot coexist. From their experience, they have for 71 years worked within extremely difficult
circumstances for relief for Hibakusha, and for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Many Hibakusha have
passed away already, and those remaining do not have abundant time left.
Despite their efforts, the nine nuclear-armed states, including the US and Russia, continue to possess
nuclear weapons, and maintain nuclear deterrence as national policy. Far from pursuing disarmament, the
nuclear-armed states conduct subcritical nuclear tests and otherwise seek to improve the function of their
nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, the government of A-bombed Japan has recently adopted a cabinet
resolution declaring that Article 9 of the country’s Peace Constitution does not prohibit the possession and
use of nuclear weapons. In fact, with its 48 tons of plutonium and maintenance of the nuclear fuel cycle,
Japan is already seen internationally as a latent nuclear-armed nation.
President Obama, in 2009 in Prague called for a “world without nuclear weapons.” He went so far as to say
that “as a nuclear power, as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a
moral responsibility to act.” But at the same time, he stated that “as long as these weapons exist, the
United States will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal to deter any adversary, and guarantee that
defense to our allies.” This contradiction has manifested consistently in the actions of the Obama
government throughout these seven years. Introducing a missile defense system in Europe, for example,
provoked Russia and brought disarmament negotiations to a halt. And the United States continues to
modernize its nuclear weapons by spending one trillion dollars on its military budget, developing easier to
use smaller nuclear weapons. The real positioning is far from the “world without nuclear weapons” for
which President Obama appealed.
We hoped that President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima could serve to resolve the contradiction of pursuing a
world without nuclear weapons whilst relying on nuclear deterrence. We wanted him to personally face the
reality of the indiscriminate slaughter of innocent human beings through the dropping of the atomic
bombs. President Obama has now seen with his own eyes that no use of nuclear weapons should ever be
allowed, and that these weapons threaten the continued survival of our species. We had hope that he
would save us from this threat by declaring, from Hiroshima to the world, that nuclear weapons are
inhumane, unusable, and must immediately be abolished.
As the President of the country in question, we wanted President Obama to acknowledge that the US used
nuclear weapons which resulted in inconceivable pain, suffering and indiscriminate slaughter, including the
endless horror of radiation exposure, and recognize that this was an absolute mistake. We hoped for a
sincere apology to be given to the departed victims, and to those who managed to survive. We believe the
US should recognize that murdering innocent civilians with an incomparably destructive weapon is a war
crime that violates international humanitarian law, and apologize for this. Such an apology is an
indispensable step in the journey for a world without nuclear weapons. Such a world cannot be achieved
without recognizing that nuclear weapons are fundamentally wrong. The Japanese government announced
it will not ask for an apology from the United States. Such a “beautifully set” environment may lead Japan
to stay ambiguous about its wartime invasions and to avoid apologizing for its own actions. Overcoming
revenge caused by hatred and asking for an apology are two separate things. We should learn from
Germany, which directly faced the history of the Nazi massacres, and walked from the past into the future.
As the Germans said, those who shut their eyes to avoid the past cannot see the present. We cannot
separate the history of the damage caused by nuclear weapons and the attacks perpetrated upon Asian
Japan is the only country to experience the bombing of nuclear weapons during war. However, its current
national security is dependent on nuclear deterrence under the US nuclear umbrella. The Japanese
Government is presenting President Obama’s visit as increasing momentum for nuclear disarmament,
however it is using Hiroshima as a tool to strengthen and reinforce the US-Japan alliance. It seems almost as
if the Governments of Japan and the US intended the Hiroshima visit to allow them to not reflect upon the
historical facts of the past, and to act as if crimes perpetrated by the states 71 years ago did not happen,
under the name of reconciliation.
The discussion to legally ban nuclear weapons is ongoing at the United Nations Open Ended Working Group
on Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations (OEWG). However, this is being
boycotted by the nuclear-armed states, including the US. The Japanese Government, protected by the US
nuclear umbrella, spoke at this meeting on behalf of the boycotting countries. Japan is against a legal ban of
the use of nuclear weapons, and is working to obstruct the significant international movement towards
such a ban – this is the reality. The Japanese and US Governments present President Obama’s visit to
Hiroshima as an opportunity to break through the slow progress towards nuclear disarmament. However,
the reality is that this visit is just an opportunity for the US and Japan to hide the role both nations are really
playing. Even if President Obama calls for “a world without nuclear weapons,” his words will be powerless
unless the US participates in the OEWG. As the leader of the state possessing the largest nuclear force,
President Obama must take responsibility for the existence of humanity, and take the lead towards the
banning of nuclear weapons – otherwise his words are empty.
The strong international movement for nuclear abolition coming from many many states and also citizens
around the world, particularly efforts to establish a treaty to legally ban nuclear weapons on the grounds of
their inhumanity, is the way to make a “world without nuclear weapons” the reality. This is the message
that should have been sent from Hiroshima.
“Renunciation of war”, “renunciation of military forces”, and “denying the right of belligerency of the state”
are stated in Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. The people of Hiroshima, who call for nuclear abolition
and an end to war, believe strongly in this. The Japanese Government enforced a set of security laws which
allow the Japanese Self-Defense Force to use military force with the US military. This goes against Article 9,
and President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima should not be allowed to be used as a performance to show a
stronger alliance between Japan and the United States.
As long as the Obama and Abe administrations continue nuclear cooperation policies to export nuclear
energy to the world and policies to promote nuclear energy such as the restart of nuclear power plants,
nuclear proliferation and the possession and strengthening of nuclear military capacity will continue. This
goes in the opposite direction to movements towards the abolition of nuclear weapons. We citizens
consider both the military and commercial use of nuclear technology are linked within the nuclear use
cycle, and pledge to work on these issues in connection.
May 27, 2016