Summer has come to Hiroshima and Nagasaki again this year – a reminder that peace and security can be lasting without the threat of nuclear weapons.
This year’s summer is a stark contrast from the deeply etched memories of nuclear destruction that wiped out the two cities. Two nuclear weapons were detonated over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6th and 9th August 1945, respectively. These two atomic bombings remain the only instances in human history of nuclear weapons being used in armed conflict.
The bombings killed between 150,000 and 246,000 people in the two cities, most of whom were civilians, including women and children. Not only did the nuclear weapons have the ability to immediately shed blood, but they also caused health problems and discrimination in Hibakusha (the people affected by exposure to the nuclear weapons) and their second and third generations. Although created by the wisdom in science, atomic bombs quickly became a creation for destruction that took away bright futures of many in an instant.
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference is being held in New York from 1 to 26 August to discuss nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. However, the difference in the positions of each country is conspicuous and the NPT, which has served as the norm toward a world free of nuclear weapons for more than a half century, is now at risk.
Russia’s nuclear threat to Ukraine, which does not possess nuclear weapons, is deeply alarming. The situation is more concerning, considering that nuclear powers have modernised their nuclear weapons and developed smaller, easier-to-use nuclear weapons. The number of nuclear warheads may even begin to increase for the first time since the Cold War. As a nuclear war is likely to become a reality, all the parties to the Treaty, especially the nuclear-weapon States, must make every possible effort to ensure that the NPT continues to play its critical role of promoting nuclear disarmament.
The ongoing NPT Review Conference is the first review conference since the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) came into effect. It is worth highlighting that none of the nuclear powers have ratified the Treaty and it has been even criticised that TPNW is divisive between nuclear-weapon States and non-nuclear-weapon States. However, all the parties to the NPT, whether they possess nuclear weapons or not, commit themselves to making every effort to avert the danger of a nuclear war and take measures to safeguard the security of peoples. the TPNW and the NPT are not conflicting, but complementary to each other. At the Review Conference, it is crucial for the nuclear powers to recognise that the TPNW contributes to the disarmament obligations set by the NPT. By doing so, these two approaches can be well coordinated to achieve the common goal.
The Review Conference must strengthen the NPT towards the advancement of a nuclear-weapons-free world. The abolition of nuclear weapons must be mankind’s top priority, as it is a key element in building a world grounded on peace and security.