Statements Archive
Jun 1, 2016 - Peace Boat statement on President Obama's visit to Hiroshima: After words must come action
Peace Boat Statement

After Words Must Come Action
-- For a Nuclear-Free World: Together with the Hibakusha --

June 1, 2016

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On May 27, 2016, Barack Obama became the first sitting United States president to visit Hiroshima. Although his visit was rather limited, he met with Hibakusha, survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For a president to hear the words of survivors in person is something for which not only Hibakusha organizations but also civil society groups from Japan and around the world, including Peace Boat, have long been calling: this meeting was truly a historic occasion.

The president of the country that currently holds the world's largest nuclear force, and the only country to have used nuclear weapons, must be commended for facing the victims of these weapons. We would also like to express our respect for the efforts of Hibakusha, the Mayors and people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Governments of Japan and the US and other related organizations for having realized this visit.

In President Obama's speech at the Peace Memorial Park, he once again put forward the goal of a "world without nuclear weapons." However we must point out that there was a severe lack of substance regarding efforts for nuclear weapons abolition.

President Obama made no reference to the basic fact that it was the United States that dropped the atomic bomb which took the lives of more than 200,000 people, nor to the responsibility of the United States for that action. Further, he stated that "we may not realize this goal in my lifetime," and he said nothing about concrete policies or steps for nuclear disarmament.

Through the "Global Voyage for a Nuclear-Free World: Peace Boat Hibakusha Project," Peace Boat has travelled around the world with more than 160 Hibakusha, sharing the reality of the impact of nuclear weapons. The average age of Hibakusha is now over 80, and for many they are fighting for a clear roadmap to nuclear weapons abolition to be established within their lifetime.

This is something achievable. The efforts of the Hibakusha are bearing fruit: in recent years international recognition of the inhumanity of nuclear weapons has grown, with an unprecedented gathering of momentum towards banning nuclear weapons. The first United Nations Open-Ended Working Group to address legal measures for the banning of nuclear weapons began in Geneva in February of this year, and more than 120 states are now calling for a commencement of negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. However, the United States, together with other nuclear-armed states, is boycotting this working group, and Japan is opposed to the commencement of negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons .

If President Obama and Prime Minister Abe hold sincere aspirations for a "world free of nuclear weapons," then the United States and Japan must transform their current policies, and immediately participate in negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

President Obama's speech in Hiroshima reflected upon humanity's history of war. He also referred to the fact that the victims of the atomic bombs were not only Japanese, but also Koreans and US prisoners of war. Nuclear damage has no national boundaries, and whether in the country of victory or defeat, the overwhelming majority of victims in wars are civilians. Peace Boat has learned and experienced this reality through our 33-year history of conducting international exchange programmes through our global voyages. This is the very reason that we undertake activities to spread the spirit of Article 9 of Japan's constitution, which sets forth to build peace without relying on force.

To rid the world of nuclear weapons, and never again repeat war: President Obama's speech contained several phrases which indicated such sentiments. Yet, these words must be turned into concrete action.

In August of this year, marking the 71st year since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Peace Boat's 9th "Global Voyage for a Nuclear-Free World" will set sail from Japan with first and second generation Hibakusha onboard. They will call at New York in October, during the General Assembly of the United Nations. During this visit, Peace Boat and the Hibakusha onboard will share the reality of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons with citizens of the United States and people from around the world.

When survivors of war raise their voices, and citizens build connections beyond national boundaries and take action, it is possible to effect change in international politics. Peace Boat will continue such activities, and call on the Governments of Japan and the United States to eschew expansion of their military cooperation and perpetuation of the existence of their military bases. Instead, Peace Boat calls for truly peaceful cooperation towards nuclear weapons abolition and human security.

Download this statement as a PDF here.