Next Generation Activists Take on Nuclear Weapons

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2022 was a significant turning point as many countries around the world renewed their resolve to cooperate with each other to abolish nuclear weapons in the face of the looming nuclear threat resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In this context, Kaoru Nemoto, director of the United Nations Information Center in Tokyo, and Suzuka Nakamura, university student who founded Know Nukes Tokyo in May 2020, discussed the current state of nuclear disarmament and called for a additional contribution from Japan.

Nakamura started the movement against nuclear weapons in her hometown of Nagasaki when she was a high school student. Now she is expanding her work to lead campaigns for a world without nuclear weapons and provide peace education in schools.

Here are some excerpts from their dialogue:

Suzuka Nakamura, co-founder of youth organization Know Nukes Tokyo

Nakamura: In June, Japan sent a government delegation to the 2022 Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, where I separately spoke as one of the third-generation descendants of atomic bomb victims. . Towards the end of the speech, I mentioned how disappointed I was that the Japanese delegation was not attending the first meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which began the following day. This comment drew some applause. I felt this was proof that Japan is considered a special country in the context of nuclear disarmament and is supposed to send messages that no other country can express. I feel like the world is waiting for Japan to join the treaty.

Kaoru Nemoto, Director of the United Nations Information Center
Kaoru Nemoto, Director of the United Nations Information Center

Nemoto: Even though Japan is not yet a signatory to the treaty, there are ways to clarify its position, such as explaining why Japan is not ready to join the treaty and how Japan can still contribute to global efforts. of non-proliferation. It was a step forward that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida became the first Japanese Prime Minister to attend the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference this year, and delivered a speech during his stay. The United Nations welcomes this initiative as a boost. The Prime Minister has proposed the creation of a fund to preserve the stories of aging victims of the atomic bomb and to engage more people around the world, including more young people, in non-proliferation activities under the plan Hiroshima action plan that he announced in the speech. The United Nations is currently working out the details with the Japanese government.

Nakamura: Indeed, the fact that the Prime Minister is spreading Japan’s messages through the Hiroshima Action Plan and other occasions is appreciated by the global community. There is also a common understanding that Japan is in a difficult security environment. To be honest, I don’t think Japan can become independent from the US nuclear umbrella and sign the treaty overnight, given the complexity of the current situation. But we must not spread the wrong message that Japan endorses nuclear weapons. As the only country to have suffered atomic bombings, we must emphasize the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons as an absolute and unnecessary evil.

Nemoto: Seeing and feeling the devastation caused by nuclear weapons can help leaders make important decisions. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a civilian. This experience prompted Portugal, which had abstained in the past, to vote against the resumption of nuclear testing in the Pacific for the first time when he was prime minister. This summer, he delivered his message of nuclear disarmament to the world from Hiroshima at the peace memorial ceremony as the first secretary-general to attend the memorial ceremonies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Nakamura: Japan can do a lot more to show how serious we are, such as announcing Japan’s policies and a timetable for joining the treaty. Japan should not overlook such a wonderful opportunity as the meeting of States Parties to the TPNW. Even though Japan is not one of the States Parties, we should do what we can do now, such as attending the conference as an observer and sharing experiences from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A true leader of nuclear disarmament is someone who is involved in all related meetings, such as NPT Review Conferences and TPNW State Party meetings, and who is committed to bringing the world together, acting as as a mediator between countries that possess nuclear weapons and those that do not. Japan should start taking the necessary steps to become such a leader.

Nemoto: The United Nations connects young people around the world and helps them learn from each other. The efforts of young people in Japan to eliminate nuclear weapons inspire international society to unite stronger to create a world without nuclear weapons.

Nakamura: These opportunities offered by the United Nations are very important to us because we believe in connecting with young people around the world to share our ideas. For us Japanese, nuclear weapons are mainly associated with what happened 77 years ago in a historical context, while young people in the rest of the world take this problem as their own, being aware that they are living through this moment with more than 12,000 such weapons. To gain a deeper and broader understanding of the issue of nuclear weapons from various angles and in relation to various other topics, such as the environment or gender issues, we plan to invite young people from around the world to an event internationally early next year.

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