Ahead of the crucial NPT Review Conference, the world must rally together to abolish nuclear weapons

Seventy-six years ago, at 8.15am on 6 August 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, resulting in the loss of more than 140,000 precious lives due to the blast and the firestorm that followed. Three days later, on 9 August, at 11.02am, another nuclear bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki, 300 kilometres away, sacrificing about 74,000 innocent people.

Before the A-bomb, even though there was a war going on, the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki lived humble and happy lives. All of this was stolen in an instant by the nuclear attacks. Imagine your loved ones and all the things that you hold dear being taken away from you in the blink of an eye.

Since its formation in 1989, the Japanese national trade union centre JTUC-RENGO has designated the four months between June and September as the period for our nationwide peace campaign, organising peace rallies in Okinawa, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Nemuro. This initiative educates the public about the realities of war, and allows people to speak about, learn about and pass on the sacred value of peace, which has been firmly established as one of the core pillars of the JTUC-RENGO’s activities. To the themes of the ‘abolition of nuclear weapons’ and the ‘realisation of lasting peace’, several thousands of our members from all over Japan gather in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to share our desire for peace in the hope that nuclear weapons will never be used again.

Furthermore, every year, JTUC-RENGO, together with the Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs (GENSUIKIN) and the National Council for Peace and Against Nuclear Weapons (KAKKIN), has conducted peace education and made tenacious efforts toward the abolition of nuclear weapons, including conducting actions calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons at the diplomatic missions of the nuclear powers in Japan.

Against this backdrop, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons came into force on 22 January 2021. JTUC-RENGO welcomes the entry into force of the treaty from the viewpoint that it calls for the abolition of all nuclear weapons. However, despite being the only country to have suffered from a nuclear attack, the Japanese government has not ratified the treaty, saying that it will “further deepen divisions within the international community”. Besides the five nuclear powers – the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia – the countries under the US ‘nuclear umbrella’ have also failed to ratify the treaty. We strongly urge the Japanese government to ratify the treaty as soon as possible in order to fulfil its role and responsibility as the only country to have suffered the devastation caused by nuclear bombs.

JTUC-RENGO, GENSUIKIN and KAKKIN collaborated with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) on a global scale to promote activities for the ‘10 Million Signatures for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons’ campaign in preparation for the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which was scheduled to be held in April 2020, finally collecting 8,247,714 signatures.

The signatures were submitted to the United Nations and the Japanese government with a request to make further efforts toward the abolition of nuclear weapons.

The crucial NPT Review Conference to discuss global nuclear disarmament efforts has been postponed until January 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While it is true that we are currently facing a major public health and economic crisis as a result of the pandemic, the confirmation of the organisational status of the NPT is one and a half years behind schedule. The NPT and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons share the goal of nuclear disarmament. We believe it is necessary for the countries of the world, including, of course, the nuclear powers, to open their hearts to each other and engage in discussions at an early date.

Without peace, the daily activities we cherish would not be possible. As the national centre of the only country that has suffered from A-bomb attacks, JTUC-RENGO will continue to do its utmost to arouse public opinion toward the abolition of nuclear weapons. We would like to ask for your continued support and cooperation as we share with readers of this column the idea that if we act together, we will surely be able to eliminate the scourge of nuclear weapons from the Earth.