Reducing Nuclear Dangers in North Asia

Global overview

 Nearly fifty-seven years have passed since the first atomic bombs were dropped upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those who survived the holocaust are getting old and increasingly frustrated because their earnest prayer, shared by many other Japanese people, that those deadly weapons will be eliminated from the earth, is very far from being realized.

In fact, the possibility of our prayer being realized seems to be more remote today than 12 years ago when the Cold War ended. The possibility began eroding before the terrorist attacks on the United States last September and even before the inauguration of Mr. Bush as president. As you recall, in October 1999 when we were meeting in Beijing at the Second North Asia Regional Conference, the Unites States Senate rejected the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Since then, a series of decisions have been taken by the US Government, the decisions which run counter to the commitments made at the 2000 NPT Review Conference. Although Mr. Bush declared his intention to reduce American strategic nuclear weapons unilaterally down to less than 2000, which is a welcome move by itself, he is vigorously pushing the missile defense (MD) program. That program seems to have gained a fresh momentum after the September 11 incident.

While we fully share the anger and anguish of the American people about that horrible happening, we feel deeply disappointed at the apparent lack of their enthusiasm for nuclear disarmament. I wish to make it clear on behalf of many concerned people in Japan that we will continue to demand the United States and other nuclear-weapon States to honor their obligation under Article VI of NPT, particularly the "unequivocal undertakings" for nuclear disarmament expressed in the resolution of the last NPT Review Conference.

At the same time, we should bear in mind that we, private citizens of the world, have our own responsibility to do our utmost to help create global and regional climate conducive to further progress in nuclear disarmament negotiations among the countries concerned, no matter how challenging it may be.

Current situation in North Asia

Turning now to the issues of our region, I must say that we in North Asia are faced today with no less complicated and difficult situation than elsewhere in the world.

Indeed, the political environment in North Asia has changed drastically over the past year or so, particularly since the inauguration of the Bush administration in the United States in early 2001. Unlike the previous administration under President Clinton, the United States started adopting tougher policies towards the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The September 11 incident has further aggravated the relationship between the United States and DPRK, as well illustrated by President Bush calling DPRK a member of the "Axis of Evil".

These American policy changes have compelled South Korea to tone down President Kim Dae-jung's "sunshine" policy vis-a-vis the north, and also Japan to slow down its normalization talks with DPRK. There are other knotty issues long pending between Japan and DPRK, including the issues of some Japanese citizens believed to have been abducted to the north and the mysterious ship invading the Japanese sea last December.

Most regrettably, therefore, there is no hope of early relaxation of tension in Northeast Asia, and no real hope of progress in the area of nuclear disarmament in the region. In fact, our 3rd North Asia Regional Conference, scheduled to take place in Pyongyang in October 2001, was forced to be cancelled at the last minute.

Under such severe circumstance, what should we, regional affiliates of IPPNW, do in order to achieve our long-cherished goal of creating a nuclear-weapon-free North Asia? Should we just continue a "wait and see" attitude for the moment? No! I do not think this is the time for pessimism or defeatism. Nor is it the time for negligence or procrastination. We should be able to explore various other possibilities through various new venues.

New regional initiatives

One of such new venues I have in mind is to reactivate our North Asia Regional Conference by recruiting a new regional member, namely Mongolia. As you all know, Mongolia is a confirmed non-nuclear-weapon State, having been recognized as such by the United Nations several years ago. There is no doubt that they have an excellent qualification to join IPPNW. I have always thought that we should invite the like-minded physicians and other concerned people of that country to establish their local chapter affiliated to IPPNW and to participate in our North Asia Regional Conference. If this is done, our Regional Conference will be greatly reinforced, thus making it possible for us to launch new important initiatives towards reducing nuclear dangers in the region. Therefore, on behalf of the Japanese delegation, I now wish to propose that necessary actions be taken as expeditiously as possible to invite Mongolia as our new partner in all IPPNW activities, especially in our North Asia Regional Conference.

There can be many other ways out of the present impasse, so long as there is a strong will to do so on our part. Let us not simply surrender to the present situation, no matter how adverse it is. Instead, let us reconfirm our joint commitment to create a "Nuclear-Weapon-Free North Asia", the noble cause which we have pursued thus far and will keep pursuing with a greater determination in the years to come.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.

[To be delivered at the Workshop (Session 1) on North Asia on May 3, 2002,

at Renaissance Hotel, 999, 9th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C..]