Japan has a long way yet to go

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Japan has a long way yet to go

The speech was gut-wrenching.

On Aug. 6, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui delivered his Peace Declaration at a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city at Peace Memorial Park.

“Below the mushroom cloud, a charred mother and child embraced, countless corpses floated in rivers and buildings burned to the ground. Bring Hiroshima back! This is the heartbroken cry of surviving atomic bombing victims who want Hiroshima - their hometown, their families, their own minds and bodies - put back the way it was.

“In front of this witness to history, I want us all, once again, to squarely face what the A-bomb did and embrace fully the spirit of the victims.”

The ceremony was a special one, attended by the survivors and families of the victims from Korea and other countries, as well as representatives from more than 100 nations. By the end of 1945, the casualties from the atomic bombing on Hiroshima added up to 140,000 deaths. Nearly half of Hiroshima’s population of 330,000 was killed. But the tragedy didn’t end there. According to a recent opinion poll by the Asahi Shimbun, 55 percent of the 5,762 respondents who survived the bombing said that they were anxious about the effects of radiation exposure, and 48 percent said they were worried about the health of their children and grandchildren. The catastrophe of Hiroshima reminds us that a tragedy of that scale must never happen again. Hiroshima’s wish for peace, the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons, should be shared.

“As the only country to have ever experienced the horror of nuclear devastation in war, Japan has an important mission to realize a world free of nuclear weapons by steadily carrying out a succession of realistic and practical measures,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at the ceremony.

However, he excluded mentioning the three nonnuclear principles that all previous prime ministers since 1996, including himself, have emphasized at this event. The three principles of not possessing, producing or permitting nuclear weapons on Japanese territory were first outlined in 1967 by Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, and for this, he received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Excluding these three principles only makes us doubt Abe’s sincerity. Japan should not just emphasize this history as a victim. Hiroshima’s cry can only be relevant when Japan correctly acknowledges that its own war of aggression was ended by the disaster and truly repents. The answer can be found in the pacifism, democracy and international contributions that all past Japanese governments have accumulated.

The author is a Tokyo correspondent
for the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 7, Page 29


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