Disarmament Dreams Unfulfilled: Hiroshima G7 Reflects on Nuclear Legacy

Disarmament Dreams Unfulfilled: Hiroshima G7 Reflects on Nuclear Legacy

Hiroshima- When the last U.S. president visited Hiroshima, Shigeaki Mori, a survivor of the atomic bomb, felt hopeful about a future free from nuclear weapons. However, after seven years, Mori's optimism has waned.

As the leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) nations convene in Hiroshima for a summit, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida seeks a commitment to nuclear disarmament. Kishida, representing Hiroshima, deliberately chose the city as the summit venue to draw attention to the issue of nuclear weapons.

However, the choice of location also underscores a significant shift in global security since 2016, when Barack Obama, the first sitting U.S. president, visited Hiroshima.

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has highlighted the significance of nuclear deterrence for Western nations. Moscow has expressed its willingness to utilize its nuclear arsenal to protect its "territorial integrity" if the need arises.

In Japan, there is concern among the elderly hibakusha, who are survivors of the atomic bombings and have an average age of 85, that the upcoming summit may represent their final opportunity to advocate for nuclear disarmament. They worry that the legacy of Hiroshima, as the first city devastated by a nuclear weapon, may be reduced to a mere historical relic rather than a catalyst for change.

In an interview, 86-year-old Mori expressed his desire to witness a commitment from world leaders to eliminate nuclear weapons. However, he acknowledges the immense difficulty in persuading them to take such a decisive step.

Despite being part of the dovish faction within Japan's ruling party, Kishida, last year, implemented the largest increase in defense spending since the country's post-war era. This decision was prompted by concerns over a potential Chinese attack on Taiwan, fueled by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Following World War Two, Japan renounced the right to wage war and maintained self-defense forces, relying on the United States for protection. The concept of a "nuclear umbrella" under which Japan operates is widely understood by the Japanese population, according to Noriyuki Kawano, the head of Hiroshima University's Center for Peace. He suggests that the coexistence of the ideal of a nuclear-free world and the reality of living under a nuclear umbrella is becoming more balanced, with a shift towards a pragmatic perspective.

A December poll conducted by broadcaster NHK revealed that 51% of Japanese supported an increase in the defense budget, while 55% agreed on the necessity of counter-strike capabilities.

Shigeaki Mori, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing, has dedicated his life to uncovering the truth about the victims and advocating for nuclear disarmament. Former President Barack Obama praised Mori's work during his visit to Hiroshima, but stopped short of offering an apology for the bombings.

Mori continues to hope for a world without nuclear weapons, while President Joe Biden's focus is on regional security and alliances. The responsibility for discussions on disarmament lies with Japan, as the G7 summit takes place in Hiroshima.

According to senior German government sources, nuclear disarmament is not considered a top priority for Germany at the G7 summit. They emphasized that it is primarily of significant importance to Japan.

A senior European G7 source acknowledged the delicate balance between the aspiration for nuclear disarmament and the need for security, recognizing the challenges posed by Russia, Iran, and North Korea. While acknowledging the difficulties, Japan remains committed to pursuing the goal of a world without nuclear weapons under Prime Minister Kishida's leadership.

However, elderly atomic bomb survivors express a sense of despair that they may not witness a nuclear-free world in their lifetime. There are concerns that without substantial changes, Hiroshima's significance may be reduced to a mere platform for political publicity.

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