"Every American should visit Hiroshima," said Balbina Hwang, a
Northeast Asia specialist and a senior policy advisor during the
administration of President George W. Bush. She was addressing
reporters after giving a lecture in Tokyo in November following a visit
to the Peace Memorial Museum and other locations in Hiroshima. "I was
overwhelmed by a sense of humility," she continued. "I was struck
speechless upon seeing (what happened) with my own eyes."
Still, what Hwang saw was not the actual reality of the atomic bomb.
Witnessing an exhibit -- which can only offer a hint of the actual
barbarity of the bomb -- with one's own eyes will shake any American's
soul to the core. Even today, the starting line toward the elimination
of nuclear weapons lies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
This year, the Obama administration will continue to take various
actions on the nuclear issue. The U.S. and Russia are heading toward an
agreement on strategic arms reduction. Meanwhile, the U.S. is working
on renewing the country's Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) for the first
time in eight years, and is expected to incorporate anti-nuclear
terrorism measures. The nuclear security summit this April will aim for
an international agreement on enhanced protection of nuclear materials,
and in May, a review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) --
held every five years -- will take place in New York.
What we can glean from this busy schedule is President Barack
Obama's drive to place a priority on the prevention of nuclear
terrorism and simultaneously push toward nuclear disarmament -- which,
in particular, is highly worthy of acclaim as a specific step towards
the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. Obama will surely face
opposition, but hopefully he will persevere.
Because the NPT permits only the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and
China to possess nuclear weapons while denying the same right to all
other countries, there is no avoiding criticism that the NPT is an
unequal treaty. The NPT's requirement that signatories possessing
nuclear weapons engage in negotiations toward disarmament has largely
been ignored. Meanwhile, India and Pakistan have both come to possess
nuclear weapons without being party to the treaty, and Israel is also
said to possess large quantities of nuclear warheads.
To break out of this contradiction, the 2000 NPT review demanded
that nations possessing nuclear weapons make a clear pledge toward
nuclear abolishment, but no actions were taken to implement it. The
2005 review conference ended in failure after then President Bush
refused to even participate in a discussion on nuclear disarmament.
A basic international roadmap should be laid out at this year's
conference. Obama has already publicly announced his goal of
eliminating nuclear weapons. Though the road to that finish line may be
a long one, small, visible steps are necessary along the way. If the
countries that possess nuclear weapons fail to demonstrate goodwill in
the upcoming meeting, discontentment toward the NPT will be further
exacerbated, getting in the way of international cooperation that is
crucial to the prevention of nuclear terrorism. What is most important
now is the reconstruction of an international consensus toward the goal
of nuclear abolishment.
Hwang, whose area of expertise includes North Korea, remains
doubtful that the rogue nation's nuclear arsenal will be completely
eliminated. She says this is because North Korea is overwhelmed by
insecurity. As a result, says Hwang, North Korea is demanding not only
the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from South Korea, but wants the
entire U.S. nuclear umbrella to be removed from East Asia, including
Naturally, Hwang argues, it is unlikely that North Korea will let go
of its nuclear weapons under such circumstances, and at least for now,
the only thing that can be done is to prevent the proliferation of
North Korea's nuclear weapons through a united international front.
This take on the situation has become the norm among top U.S.
government officials. It probably has partly to do with the fact that
North Korea's nuclear weapons and missiles are not a direct threat to
the U.S. But a state of affairs in which North Korea is allowed to
maintain its nuclear weapons is not something that Japan is willing to
Furthermore, without the resolution of the kidnapping of Japanese
nationals by North Korean agents and an agreement to completely
eliminate North Korea's nuclear program, the outstanding matter of
normalizing relations between Japan and North Korea will fail to gather
support from the Japanese public.
We seek the complete abolition of nuclear weapons from the world,
and support President Obama's efforts toward nuclear disarmament. At
the same time, however, we do not see the protection we receive from
the U.S. nuclear umbrella as unreasonable as long as the North Korean
threat exists, and we will not accept our allies' admonishments to give
up on North Korean nuclear disarmament.
The recently renewed call for nuclear abolishment grew out of the
American line of thinking that to eradicate the growing threat of
nuclear terrorism, nuclear weapons must be eliminated. Merely stopping
nuclear proliferation in North Korea leaves fundamental threats intact,
and particularly puts Japan and South Korea in danger. With the help of
China and Russia, Japan, the U.S. and South Korea must join hands
toward the goal of complete nuclear disarmament in North Korea. This is
a crucial step toward a world without nuclear weapons.