Japan torn between nuclear memory and global threats



Edurne Morillo

Tokyo, Aug 7 Japan, the only country to suffer a nuclear attack, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is now showing a lukewarm stance on the ban on nuclear weapons, with some political factions also advocating rearmament amid growing concern over the situation in Ukraine. and the Pyongyang threat.

Seventy-seven years after the atomic bombing of both Japanese cities, the Asian country has been reluctant to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force in 2021, thus maintaining a cautious posture in the face of the unstable global situation .

This treaty contains prohibitions on the development, production, possession, use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, as well as provisions for victim assistance and environmental remedy, and seeks to send a clearer and stronger message than the Non-Proliferation Treaty ( NPT), of which Japan is a part.

“Japan is surrounded by nuclear states, including China and North Korea, so this is a key moment at a strategic level for the country,” explains Michiru Nishida, a professor at Nagasaki University, during a tour with foreign press organized by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Nishida, who spent 25 years working for the Japanese Foreign Ministry, is now part of the Research Center for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (RECNA), which studies from this city in the south of the archipelago how to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.

For this professor, Japan’s current position and its reluctance to sign the new treaty is due to the fact that this would lead it to renounce nuclear protection under the US umbrella, although this does not imply that the country wants to arm itself nuclearly, according to points out.

“This is something that the Japanese people should discuss, for example, if the US protection can no longer be trusted. However, I believe that Japan will continue to maintain a defensive posture and not an offensive one,” the expert explains.

POSSIBLE NUCLEAR WEAPONS OF JAPAN

Some conservative Japanese political factions have been suggesting a nuclear weapon for Japan after the Russian invasion of Ukraine last February, the growing threat from Pyongyang, which would be ready to carry out a new atomic test at any time, and the tensions with China and its frequent maneuvers military near Taiwan.

If carried out, this would force Tokyo to abandon the NPT, which entered into force in 1970, in the midst of the Cold War, and prohibits the possession of nuclear weapons by any country that is not part of the group of powers formed by the United States, the United Kingdom Kingdom, China, France and Russia (then the Soviet Union).

This suggestion has been criticized by the local governments of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as by the “hibakushas” – atomic bomb survivors – who are now at least 77 years old and have survived the ravages of war and the consequences of radiation. , and say that whoever suggests this “has not lived through the war.”

MORE BUDGET IN DEFENSE

The Japanese government has proposed doubling the national defense budget to 2% of the country’s GDP, as well as considering authorizing preemptive strikes, a strategy that goes against its traditional stance of simply intercepting attacks.

“China and North Korea are a possible threat to Japan, so we need a proper defense,” explains Nishida, who is also cautious about how this may be perceived by neighboring countries.

The academic considers that this increase in the defense budget “is not for aggression, but to dissuade countries like North Korea from using nuclear weapons.”

The Enola Gay was the plane that dropped the first nuclear bomb used in real combat on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, baptized as “Little Boy”, precipitating the surrender of Japan and the end of World War II.

On August 9, the “Fat Man” bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. It exploded at 11:02 AM at a height of about 470 meters, with a detonation equivalent to 21 kilotons of TNT and left more than 40% of the city destroyed.

Including the two bombings, some 400,000 people have lost their lives in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to date, and both cities are now struggling to keep this memory alive and go down in history as the only ones to have suffered a nuclear attack. EFE

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