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The Middle East without Weapons of Mass Destruction – Civil Society Input

The NGO conference entitled "The Middle East without Weapons of Mass Destruction - the Way Forward Civil Society Input" was held on December 14-16 in Helsinki, Finland. It was hosted by the Peace Union of Finland. Yayoi Tsuchida, assistant general secretary of the Japan Council against A and H Bombs (Gensuikyo) took part in it on behalf of the International Peace Bureau (IPB).       

Panel Discussion: The way forward: how civil society actors can support the process?

Yayoi Tsuchida
Steering Committee member, International Peace Bureau (IPB)

I am honored to be a panelist for the discussion today.  On behalf of the International Peace Bureau and my organization, Japan Council against A and H Bombs, I would like to thank the Peace Union of Finland for inviting me and giving me an opportunity to present you the Japanese perspective on the theme.

Now that 67 years have passed since the tragedy of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, young people who don’t have any knowledge about it have increased even in Japan.  700g of uranium was used for the Hiroshima bomb and 1kg of plutonium for the Nagasaki bomb.  The volume of the explosives was just the size of a table tennis ball.  Even such a small amount of explosives killed 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 70,000 in Nagasaki by the end of 1945.  Those who barely survived the hell have been tormented by aftereffects of the atomic bomb and many survivors died one after another.  It might be beyond your imagination, but more than 200,000 surviving victims are still suffering from physical and mental pains.

The Japanese people again suffered the damage of the H bomb. On March 1, 1954, the United States conducted the H-bomb test at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific.  Due to fallouts from the test, 856 Japanese fishing boats brought radioactive contaminated tuna back to Japan only within that year. Radioactive rain fell on all over Japanese archipelago.  The destructive power of the bomb is said to be 1000 times more than the Hiroshima-type bomb. Radioactivity scattered from the test is estimated to be 1000 times more than that of Hiroshima, though H-bomb was called a “clean bomb”.  This is a reality of nuclear damage.

As US President Obama admitted in his speech in Prague, one nuclear weapon exploded in one city could cause immeasurable damage wherever it happens, in New York or Moscow or Beijin or London or Paris or Tel Aviv.  Based on our own experiences of nuclear tragedy, we insist that nuclear weapons must be banned and eliminated without any further delay.  Efforts should not be limited to this or that step-by-step measures.  We have to strengthen efforts to create a consensus of banning nuclear weapons without delay.

We fully support efforts to establish a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.  We think that a crisis and an opportunity coexist in this region.  The crisis is that historically this region has been imposed causes of conflicts and disputes as colony of European countries; and complicated conflicts, in particular, over the Palestine issue have continued.

However, there is a consensus internationally on the way to resolving this issue: Israel should withdraw from all the lands which occupied in the war in 1967; the establishment of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and co-existence of the two states – Israel and Palestine – should be ensured; armed attacks should be ended; the unlawfully constructed settlements by Israel should be removed.  Occupying and settling in the lands of other nations is never permissible anywhere on earth.

At the same time, this effort should be pursued through peaceful means. Here lies a chance: In spite of long-term confrontation, all countries of the Middle East except Israel have not acquired nuclear weapons, putting themselves under the obligation of Article 2 of NPT to not receive nor acquire such weapons.  Against the backdrop of this, there is an earnest desire of the people for peace.

In 2007, we held an A-bomb exhibition in Cairo, the capital of Egypt, and had dialogue with every walk of life including youth and students.  Most impressed was that we did not hear the voices of seeking nuclear armament and reliance on “nuclear umbrella” by nuclear powers in spite of Israeli dangerous policy of neither confirming nor denying the possession of nuclear weapons.

However, we don’t think that this situation may not change forever. That’s why, as the Philippine Ambassador Libran Cabactulan, the then chair of the 2010 NPT Review Conference said at the 2012 NPT PrepCom, I want to remind you that after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world was fortunate to avoid a nuclear holocaust for 60 years and hopefully for many more years to come, but let us not continue to tempt the fates.

We have to make known to not only the Israeli government but its people the imminent danger of nuclear weapons and urgent need of abolishing nuclear weapons, and through all possible means we have to call on Israel to sit at the same table with Arab countries.  Needless to say, nuclear five are hugely responsible.  In particular, the US is to blame.  While proposing a resolution calling for the establishment of a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction since the 1995 NPT Review Conference, it has prioritized Israel’s so-called “national security” over denuclearizing it. All parties should take fair attitude to all countries concerned.  They should not take the double standard that defends nuclear weapons of one side while threatens such weapons of the other side.

In concluding, I want to mention 3 points. First, it is crucial to build up public opinion in favor of a total ban on nuclear weapons, which will surely contribute to the establishment of a Middle East without nuclear weapons. Creating a “nuclear weapon-free zone” is effective as a measure to ensure regional security, but it does not mean that nuclear weapons states can perpetuate their possession of such weapons. As a major premise, they must abandon nuclear weapons.  Nuclear deterrence theory is the main cause to block the way to a nuclear weapon-free world. Together with supporting effort for a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons, we, the peace movements of the world, bear great responsibility for putting more pressure on the governments of the world, in particular nuclear weapons states, to implement the agreement of the 2010 NPT Review Conference to achieve the “peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons”. Such actions are needed towards the next NPT Review Conference in 2015, and we believe that they will help achieve a Middle East nuclear weapon-free zone.

Second, as concrete action, we have a plan of holding an A-bomb exhibition in Israel to raise awareness of the people about damage and aftereffects of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  I want to ask for your cooperation and help to realize it.

Third, following the damage of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Bikini, Japan suffered the tragedy of Fukushima, which is damage from the so-called “peaceful use” of nuclear energy.  We don’t think that NPT will be a platform for solving this problem.  However, we believe that advances in the abolition of nuclear weapons will open up a possibility of a new international cooperation even on the tasks of a shift of energy policy and eradication of radiation damage.


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