Recounting Horrors in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Atomic Bombing Survivors Urge Recommitment to ‘Never Again’ Use Nuclear Weapons, as Review Conference Wraps Up First Week
The Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons concluded its first week today, with gripping first-hand accounts by those who survived the horrors of atomic production, testing and use, and who moved the debate from one of concepts and proposals towards a timeless appeal to uphold a collective moral conscience in saying “never again”.
Representing the hibakusha — as those survived the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the Second World War are known — Wada Masako of the Japan Confederation of A-and H-Bomb Suffers Organizations recounted her experience as a nearly two-year-old child whose house was 2.9 kilometres from the blast centre in Nagasaki. Her mother, she said, recalled seeing people escape from fires “like ants”, their “brown, scantily clad bodies burned all over and their hair matted with blood, standing on end like horns”.
She said the empty lot next door became a cremation ground, with bodies collected by garbage carts and people numb to even the stench from burning bodies. “What is human dignity?” she asked. “Humans are not created to be treated like this.” She appealed to the wisdom “of each of you who represent your country” to recommit to end nuclear weapons use. “No more hibakusha,” she insisted.
Similarly, Noboru Sakiyama, President of the Japanese Liaison Council of Second-Generation Atomic Bomb Survivors, noted both his parents were hibakusha of Nagasaki. “We ourselves are nuclear victims because there is no scientific evidence to clearly deny the transgenerational genetic health effect of A-bomb radiation,” he stressed.
Second-generation hibakusha and their parents are passing away from diseases such as cancer, he said, discriminated against in marriage and employment, and left without public assistance. He pointed to the effects of radiation on future generations, including in the Marshall Islands, Chernobyl and Fukushima.
Taue Tomihisa, Vice President of Mayors for Peace and Mayor of Nagasaki, said that by the end of 1945, 210,000 lives in the two cities were lost. Those who barely survived suffered the effects of radiation exposure and faced discrimination and prejudice. Mayors for Peace, with 8,200 member cities from 166 countries, is working to abolish nuclear weapons. “Hiroshima will forever remain the ‘first wartime atomic bombing site’,” he stressed, “but whether Nagasaki will remain the ‘last wartime atomic bombing site’ depends on the future that we create”.
The influence and stature of the hibakusha were invoked throughout the day, including by Kehkashan Basu of the Soka Gakkai International, who spoke for Faith Communities Concerned About Nuclear Weapons and noted that the legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors guide her activism today. Yuta Takahashi, of Peace Boat, said young people were born into a nuclear regime to which they never consented. In 2000, when many of them were born, there were an estimated 30,000 nuclear weapons, raising “a Sword of Damocles” over their heads. “It is 100 seconds to midnight and the doorstep of doom is no place to loiter,” he stressed.
Drawing parallels, Rebecca Irby, PEAC Institute, explained that she is from the unceded territory of the Lenape people. She recalled that in 1944, the United States blasted tons of uranium out of Navajo land, which was then used in the bomb dropped on Hiroshima 77 years ago exactly on 6 August. For the Conference to achieve anything, the marginalized must be included, notably the survivors of nuclear weapons use, testing and production, non-Western, non-white and non-cisgender or heteronormative people, those at a socioeconomic disadvantage, those with disabilities and young people. “We must uproot the tree of colonialism,” she declared.
Earlier in the day, the Review Conference met in a special plenary meeting to hear an address by Robert Floyd, Executive Secretary of the Provisional Technical Secretariat of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, who said the honour of speaking today is “almost totally eclipsed” by the sense of responsibility to help strengthen the non-proliferation and disarmament architecture.
He described the opening of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty for signature 25 years ago as the culmination of efforts over decades. Today, 186 countries have signed the Test-Ban Treaty — and of them, 174 have ratified it. Comoros, Cuba, Dominica, Eswatini, Gambia, Myanmar, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu and Zimbabwe have ratified the Test-Ban Treaty since 2015, four of them this year. With Dominica’s ratification, the Latin America and Caribbean region has reached full adherence. “This is a historic milestone,” he remarked.
Citing gains, he said the Test-Ban Treaty has created and sustained a norm against nuclear testing so powerful that fewer than 12 tests have been conducted since its adoption in 1996 — and only one country has violated it this millennium. This success is thanks to the near completion of the test-ban verification regime: more than 92 per cent of the International Monitoring System facilities are in place and mission capable. “No test goes undetected,” he explained.
He said support for the full development of all verification regime elements is essential, with firm financial footing needed to meet sustainment and recapitalization costs of the monitoring system, a $1 billion asset of immense value to all humanity.
Until adherence to the Non-Proliferation Treaty is universal, the risk of nuclear testing will not fade, and the goal of nuclear disarmament will remain unreachable. He urged all States parties to assist those that have yet to ratify the instrument. “Every additional ratification strengthens the global norm against nuclear testing and builds momentum towards the Treaty’s entry into force,” he said. “It is our historic responsibility to bring the Treaty into force and ensure that the ban on nuclear testing is legally binding on all States”.
Also today, the Review Conference appointed Maria del Rosario Estrada Giron (Guatemala) and Neishanta Benn (Guyana) to the Credentials Committee, on the proposal of its President, Gustavo Zlauvinen (Argentina).
Also speaking today were representatives of the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo), International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, Arms Control Association, Abolition 2000, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, People for Nuclear Disarmament, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Middle East Treaty Organization, Peoples Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and the Global Security Institute.
Parties to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 12 August to conclude the Review Conference.
AKIRA KASAI, Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo), said the Review Conference is being held as a nuclear power engages in a military aggression against another country, threatening to use nuclear weapons, while other nuclear powers and nuclear-dependent States strengthen their military alliances and modernize their arsenals. “We call on this Conference, first and foremost, to unequivocally condemn the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons based on the United Nations Charter,” he insisted, and reaffirm article VI obligations — and all previous agreements — leading to a world without these weapons. This includes implementing commitments made at the 2010 Review Conference. He drew attention to the 2022 World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, underway in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which has been held annually since 1955. He called for “overcoming the fallacy of nuclear deterrence”, stressing that 86 per cent of atomic bomb victims were civilians.
He recalled that 77 years ago, these weapons were already recognized as threat to the survival of humanity, as the first United Nations resolution called for their elimination from national armaments. “If these unlawful acts are allowed, it leads to the collapse of reason and the non-proliferation framework,” he emphasized. World Conference participants want the Review Conference to condemn the use and threat thereof; reaffirm and implement article VI obligations; and recognize, understand and respect the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. As part of an organization working in Japan, the only country to have endured an atomic bomb, he said the danger of military confrontation and use of nuclear weapons is growing in East Asia. “The use of force does not work,” he said. “Only reason and diplomacy can be a solution.”
WADA MASAKO, Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo), noted she was a 22-month-old baby when Nagasaki was devastated by the atomic bomb, her house 2.9 kilometres away from the blast centre. She survived thanks to the mountains surrounding the central part of Nagasaki City. On the mountain path, her mother saw a file of people escaping from fires near the blast centre, who all looked brown, their scantily clad bodies burnt all over and their hair matted with blood and standing on end like horns. The empty lot next to her house became a cremation ground, where dead bodies collected by garbage carts were brought in and incinerated day after day. Everyone soon became numb to the growing number of corpses and even to the stench from burning bodies. “What is human dignity?” she asked, stressing that humans are not created to be treated like this. The average age of the hibakusha — atomic bomb survivors — has reached 85, and 9,000 die every year. “Soon there will be no A-bomb survivors,” she said. However, when the third nuclear weapon is used, the world may encounter new hibakusha who will experience the same suffering.
Their pain and suffering are deep and still continue: the deaths of loved ones, survivor’s guilt, the scenes, sounds and smell of that time etched in their memory. She further cited diseases of unknown cause, economic difficulties, prejudice and discrimination. With the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017, hibakusha were overjoyed and finally saw a ray of light. However, huge military spending continues and new weapons are being developed every day. She stressed that nuclear-weapon States and their allies should recognize the fact that, due to their insincerity and arrogance, the entire human race is on the brink of nuclear war. Nihon Hidankyo’s founding statement in 1956, “Message to the World”, declared the pledge “to save humanity from its crisis through the lessons learned from our experiences, while at the same time saving ourselves”. Nuclear weapons are inhumane weapons that bring indiscriminate and widespread damage to the victims from the blast, heat rays and radiation, and from after-effects that last for many years. She appealed to the conscience and wisdom of those who represent their countries — including Japan — to sincerely discuss and recommit themselves to the implementation of the “unequivocal undertaking” to eliminate nuclear arsenals. No more hibakusha, she stressed.
YELYZAVETA KHODOROVSKA, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said she is 18 years old and a representative of Ukrainian youth. The Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine and realities of nuclear threats bring her to New York today, she said, noting that most Ukrainians did not believe this war was possible. “We never imagined that we will be suffering from a brutal aggression reminiscent of the colonial era, coupled with inhumane crimes and torture that break every law of war — all made possible by the terrorizing threats to use nuclear weapons,” she emphasized. Nuclear weapons are killing people in Ukraine even when they are not used, as the Russian Federation uses nuclear deterrence as a shield to defend its atrocities. “As parties to the NPT, it is your job to condemn this and all nuclear threats,” she insisted. The international security system has failed, “totally paralyzed by a nuclear-armed veto-holder”. Moreover, Belarus is offering to host nuclear weapons on its territory, she said, stressing that “radiation knows no borders.” She pointed to the unique opportunity for brave decisions, embodied by the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which she urged all States Parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty to sign and ratify.
TAUE TOMIHISA, Vice President of Mayors for Peace and Mayor of Nagasaki, noted in Japan, today is 6 August — the day when the first atomic bomb in human history was dropped on Hiroshima. Just three days after, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, instantly reducing the city where he lived to ruins. By the end of that year, around 210,000 lives in the two cities were lost, and those who barely survived suffered from after-effects of radiation exposure and faced discrimination and prejudice from society. He noted the hibakusha’s wish to “never let anyone in the world go through the same suffering” has resonated, preventing another Hiroshima and Nagasaki from happening for the past 77 years. Nevertheless, decades of effort can be undone if just one nuclear-weapon State decides to tyrannize other States — as when the Russian Federation implied the use of nuclear weapons during the Ukraine invasion. Mayors for Peace, with 8,200 member cities from 166 countries and regions, will endeavour to increase momentum towards the abolition of nuclear weapons, promoting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. He expressed hope that during the Review Conference, States parties will reaffirm agreements made in past Conferences, carrying out article VI obligations to pursue negotiations in good faith towards nuclear disarmament, and Nagasaki be the last wartime atomic bombing site. “Hiroshima will forever remain the ‘first wartime atomic bombing site’, but whether Nagasaki will remain the ‘last wartime atomic bombing site’ depends on the future that we create,” he stressed.
BILL KIDD, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, said that aggression, such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, can be addressed by legal and political actions and diplomacy, combined with conventional self-defence under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, rather than by increasing the nuclear ante. The Review Conference provides an opportunity to “shift the predominant security paradigm” from one of reliance on nuclear deterrence and the threat or use of force to one that relies more on diplomacy, disarmament, conflict resolution, climate protection, sustainable development and the law. He welcomed the open letter to States parties presented today by Mr. Hallam, which has been endorsed by more than 1,400 influential figures. In particular, the call on States parties to commit to achieving the elimination of nuclear weapons no later than 2045 is supported by the United States Conference of Mayors in their resolution adopted on 6 June 2022. The civil society working paper titled, “NWC Reset: Frameworks for a nuclear-weapon-free world,” submitted to this Conference by experts convened by Abolition 2000, proposes three options for full implementation of article VI. The parliamentary handbook and follow-up events organized by his organization and the Inter-Parliamentary Union have prompted further parliamentary action.
ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE, Arms Control Association, said that although United States and Russian Federation arsenals have decreased since peak cold war levels, the risks of nuclear deterrence strategies remain far too high. Further progress by both, along with China, France and the United Kingdom remains at the core of their article VI obligations, but there have been no results since the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) — the only Treaty that verifiably limits the world’s two largest arsenals — and will expire in 2026. Meanwhile, nuclear-weapon States invest annually tens of billions of dollars to replace and upgrade those deadly arsenals, stubbornly refusing to engage in serious negotiations to cap or reduce their weaponry. In the wake of Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin’s threats, United States and Russian Federation dialogue is on indefinite hold. No nuclear-weapon States can credibly claim they are meeting their disarmament obligations. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is the only bright spot, reinforcing taboos, and bolstering the Non-Proliferation Treaty — but noting that unfortunately, all nuclear-weapon States have refused to engage with the former, she called on them to do so. The Russian Federation has defended its nuclear warnings as part of its deterrence strategy while the United States, France and the United Kingdom issued a working paper attempting to discern between irresponsible Russian Federation threats and their own responsible threats for defensive purposes.
DARYL KIMBALL, also of the Arms Control Association, said the deficit in disarmament diplomacy means the Review Conference is no ordinary Conference. Parties must assess all legal and political commitments, as history will judge the success or failure of whether leaders can come up with a credible disarmament plan. He called for urgency and determination to transcend old fault lines — and if a consensus final document is not attainable, a supermajority of States must chart the path forward with a joint declaration. Both the United States and Russian Federation seem to recognize the current danger, but there is no new dialogue, he said. He noted United States President Joseph Biden said that despite the brutal war on Ukraine, the United States must continue to engage the Russian Federation on strategic issues, and he is ready to negotiate a new framework for when the New START Treaty expires in 2026 — while Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he is looking to improve arms control — but both have equivocated as to when talks resume. States must call on both to resume and produce results. He urged the five nuclear-weapon States to reduce and eliminate their arsenals with new benchmarks and deadlines to meet the urgent situation. The United States and Russian Federation must conclude talks on a New START Treaty no later than 2025, freeze arsenals and engage in multilateral talks that year. He further called for updated 1995 negative security assurances and for the powers to address legal loopholes in the current safeguards system, among other initiatives.
JACQUELINE CABASSO, Abolition 2000, a Nuclear Weapons Convention Working Group, said non-governmental organizations attending the 1995 Review Conference called on all States to “initiate immediately and conclude by the year 2000, negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention that requires the phased elimination of all nuclear weapons within a time-bound framework”. This inspired the drafting of a model nuclear weapons convention by international lawyers, scientists and activists, outlining the legal, technical and institutional measures needed to achieve a nuclear weapon free world. The model was circulated to United Nations Member States in 1997, updated in 2007 and again circulated. As the year 2000 approached, with no convention on the horizon, this model laid the groundwork for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. At the 2000 Review Conference, nuclear-armed States committed to “accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals,” dropping qualifiers like “ultimate goal” and agreeing to “a diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies”. She noted, however, that the length of the Treaty extension has now surpassed the original duration of the accord itself, while the 1995, 2000, and 2010 commitments remain largely unfulfilled and disarmament has “gone into reverse”. In the working paper Frameworks for a Nuclear Weapon Free World, a range of approaches are suggested, including negotiation of: a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention or package of agreements; a framework agreement which includes the legal commitment to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world, identifying the measures and pathways required and providing a process for agreeing on details; and establishing protocols to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. She also called on nuclear-armed and nuclear-sharing States to commit to a timeframe of no later than 2030 for the adoption of a framework, and no later than 2045 for full implementation.
ARIANA SMITH, Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, noted that since the last Review Conference seven years ago, multiple States have exchanged dangerous threats to apply nuclear force. Nuclear threats are illegal because any threat to use nuclear weapons is a threat to commit an illegal action — whether the threat is issued by an aggressor or defender State. She stressed that nuclear weapons cannot meet the requirements of discrimination between military targets and civilian persons and infrastructure, and avoidance of severe environmental damage. The invasion of Ukraine, backed by nuclear threats, has demonstrated the urgent need to strengthen negative security assurances issued in 1995 by the five nuclear-weapon States — she said, calling on all five to promise non-nuclear weapon States not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against them and to make this promise unconditionally.
She further noted that the Russian Federation and Belarus signalled they are planning a nuclear sharing arrangement similar to that which the United States has with several North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries — an alarming potential development. NATO nuclear sharing does not justify the establishment of new nuclear sharing arrangements, but nuclear-weapon States parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty must energetically assert the incompatibility of new arrangements with that accord. The landscape today of heightened distrust, a growing nuclear arms race, and the ongoing Russian Federation-Ukraine war underscores the fundamental necessity of nuclear abolition, she stressed — urging the international community to seriously commence multilateral negotiations on the global elimination of nuclear arms. “The goal will never be achieved if a process to achieve it never really starts,” she stressed.
SERGIO DUARTE, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, described the global context today as “very dangerous”, noting that the war in Ukraine is at the heart of the situation. He called for a ceasefire. “No country can feel safe and secure until everyone feels safe and secure,” he said, calling upon all not to threaten the territorial integrity of any State. The situation has negative implications for the role of nuclear weapons, international security and the permanence of the Treaty regime. A major conflict has broken out in Europe and with it, the dangerous risk of escalation. Countries that had joined the Treaty may now have second thoughts. Also disquieting is the placement of nuclear weapons on the territories of NATO members where there are none at present, and potential deployment by the Russian Federation near NATO borders. The use of dual-purpose supersonic missiles, cyber techniques and artificial intelligence in the war also raises alarm. Noting that the overwhelming majority of countries agreed not to exercise the option of developing nuclear weapons, in exchange for pledged negotiations related to the cessation of an arms race, he said the “basic bargain” that made the Treaty possible has not been fulfilled. Nuclear States should explain in detail how they intend to fulfil their article VI commitments. While decisive progress might not be possible, a recommitment to the purposes and principles of the United Nations could be the “starting point” to strengthening non-proliferation regime and resolving to eliminate nuclear weapons, he said, adding that non-nuclear States are entitled to receive security assurances.
JOHN HALLAM, People for Nuclear Disarmament, pointed to growing talk among leaders and in mainstream media about conflict escalation, including to the nuclear level. “Nuclear fuses are burning, not only over Ukraine, most especially since the invasion, but also potentially in the Taiwan Strait and between India and Pakistan,” he said, describing the spike in nuclear risk as “dramatic”. Diplomacy and risk reduction are paramount, and he called on nuclear‑armed and allied States to enhance diplomacy. He described a joint letter, facilitated by No First Use Global a campaign with over 70 organizations — calling on the Presidents of the United States and the Russian Federation to affirm that nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought, and to adopt “no first use” policies. He also pointed to a letter from NATO parliamentarians to the United States President supporting adoption of a “no first use” policy. Fulfilling Treaty obligations is most significant, he said, presenting an open letter to nuclear‑weapon States and the Review Conference itself, endorsed by more than 1,400 people, including the President of the 2010 Review Conference, as well as Nobel laureates, religious leaders, legislators, scientists, academics and civil society leaders. It urges Governments to phase out the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines, support “no first use” policies by 2025 and commit to a time no later than 2045 to fulfil the article VI obligations.
IVANA HUGHES, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, said grave nuclear dangers have been exposed as never before by the Ukraine War and the unfolding global crisis it portends. Ever since atomic bombs were dropped on two Japanese cities in 1945, the world has lived beneath a dark shadow of a potential nuclear catastrophe — while more countries have acquired and developed nuclear weapons and at times confrontations. The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 was an occasion on which a horrific nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union was averted due mostly to good luck and prudent leadership — but rather than learn from this experience, nine countries are determined to retain this terrifying approach. For 40 years, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation has insisted that the safety and security of peoples depends on the responsible elimination of these infernal weapons. She expressed hope that the Ukraine war will at last awaken people and leaders to these dangerous conditions and summon the political will and courage to embark on pathways of restorative change. Fifty-two years after the entry into force of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the nuclear-weapon States have not only not fulfilled their disarmament obligations according to article VI, but are doing precisely the opposite — with China modernizing and also increasing its nuclear weapons and France planning to build new weapons that will last until 2090. The Russian Federation is throwing around threats and the United States is planning on spending up to $2 trillion on its nuclear arsenal modernization. The United States was the first to develop nuclear weapons and the only one to use them. It has a moral and ethical obligation to lead the world in disarmament. “We must wake up before it is too late,” she stressed.
SHARON DOLEV, Middle East Treaty Organization, noting that the chances of reaching a final document at the Review Conference are slim, said that, in 1995, States parties adopted a resolution on a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East. Israel, the sole possessor of these weapons and non-signatory to the Treaty, meant that this pledge was made in bad faith. In 2018, the General Assembly entrusted the Secretary-General with its establishment, on the basis of an arrangement freely arrived at by States in the region. The first session of this conference resulted in a consensus political declaration, fostering confidence in disarmament processes and reflecting the commitment to reach an accord through a participatory approach. Noting that the second conference was held in 2021, she said the intersessional meetings are ongoing under the auspices of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. She cautioned against measures that would hamper these efforts and urged all States Parties to recognize that these efforts are historic. “There is goodwill in the room in the United Nations conference on the zone,” she assured, underscoring the imperative that a constructive atmosphere be maintained. All States parties, when discussing the 1995 resolution, must acknowledge that the zone is already being implemented through the United Nations conference on the zone. The mere existence of this conversation means that disarmament in the Middle East has already begun, she said, likewise calling on all States to support efforts to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, pointing to the “irresponsible” United States decision, which compromised one of the most comprehensive nuclear deals in history. “All we need is goodwill,” she said. “The rest is just details.”
EMILIE MCGLONE, People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy and Peace Boat, noted the Korean Peninsula, where war has been ongoing for 70 years, is located in the middle of the nuclear crisis, with military tensions increasing significantly. While some argue that the peace process there has failed, she stressed that serious negotiations and efforts are yet to be made. Since the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea announced a moratorium on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests in 2018, the Republic of Korea and United States have not taken suitable countermeasures to improve hostile relations and resolve security threats — one of the reasons for the loss of momentum in negotiations, and why Pyongyang cannot be solely blamed. Seoul and Washington, D.C. are planning to expand joint military exercises, which will again lead to the unfortunate consequence of driving the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear and missile tests. She noted the United States, a nuclear-weapon State, has not adopted the principles of no-first use and sole purpose. “We do not have much time,” she stressed, calling for a quick turn of the current military confrontation into a phase of dialogue and negotiation. She recalled that the United States is the strongest military power in the world, and the Republic of Korea spends more than 1.5 times the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s total gross domestic product (GDP) on military spending alone. Those two States should take pre-emptive measures like suspension of joint military exercises to reduce military threats and create conditions to open dialogue. The policy to make Pyongyang give up its nuclear weapons through sanctions and military pressure has failed for the past two decades, she noted, calling for peace negotiations to begin, concluding with the improved relations and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
HAYOUNG BAK, Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea, expressed outrage over the contradictory position of President Biden’s Administration, as the United States military coercion policy obstructs the path to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. These hostile policies reveal that Administration seeks to denuclearize by forcing Pyongyang to surrender rather than through dialogue and negotiation — while the sole motive for Pyongyang’s possession of nuclear weapons is to obtain security guarantees from the United States. Not only has the Biden Administration resumed combined military exercises, which former President Donald Trump’s Administration had suspended, but is also significantly increasing their frequency, scale and intensity. NATO’s expansion into the Asia-Pacific region and the solidification of the Republic of Korea-United States-Japan alliance intensify military confrontation with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and China, turning the Korean Peninsula and North-East Asia into the most acute area of the new cold war confrontation. She cited United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taiwan, and the transfer of nuclear-powered submarine technology to Australia, which is incompatible with the demand for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has abandoned the intercontinental ballistic missile test moratorium and is suspected of conducting a seventh nuclear test — but even if it does, and increases its nuclear power, it will not change its earlier stance to realize denuclearization through dialogue and negotiations. She called for Washington, D.C. to lift sanctions in part, or stop resumed combined military exercises, and provide security guarantees in line with the United States-Democratic People’s Republic of Korea joint statement signed at the 2018 Singapore Summit.
REBECCA IRBY, PEAC Institute, explaining that she is from the unceded territory of the Lenape people, recalled that in 1944, the United States blasted tons of uranium out of Navajo land, which was then used in the bomb dropped on Hiroshima 77 years ago exactly on 6 August. She recounted “the lie of racism” documented as far back as 1444, citing the writings of Zurara, a European writer commissioned by the slave-trading leaders, to Kiluanji Kia Henda, Angola's most successful contemporary artist, to Langston Hughes, who cited racism as a factor in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, questioning why atomic bombs never targeted Germany or Italy. “It is not a coincidence but by design that all the colonial powers are also the nuclear-armed States or nuclear-umbrella States,” she remarked. “Economic power requires continuous domination and exploitation.” From where fissile material is mined to where nuclear weapons are made, tested and ultimately deployed, these weapons always impact the most vulnerable communities, who are “poor and non-white by design”. She stressed that words like “good faith” and “effective measures”, outlined in the Treaty, require fairness and equity. For the Conference to achieve anything, she called for the meaningful participation of the marginalized, especially the survivors of nuclear weapons use, testing and production, as well as non-Western, non-white and non-cisgender or heteronormative people, those at a socioeconomic disadvantage, with disabilities and youth. “We must uproot the tree of colonialism,” she declared.
KEHKASHAN BASU, Soka Gakkai International, on behalf of Faith Communities Concerned About Nuclear Weapons, said the people of faith she represents unite their voices to recall the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. She voiced deep concern over the potential escalation of nuclear war in renewed determination to carry on the legacy of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who guide her activism today. The Treaty is a landmark instrument whose wide adherence is a testament to its relevance. However, it is only as strong as its implementation. She cautioned against making even greater investments in and modernization of nuclear weapons, recalling, as a person of faith, the shared humanity of the world’s peoples. Despite national interests that seemingly contradict each other, countries share the fundamental goal of preserving the planet and families. Nuclear weapons, whether used by design or accident, will destroy the world and cause suffering, as stated by the hibakusha. She denounced their role in so‑called national security, welcoming the leadership demonstrated by States parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and bold commitments produced at their first meeting. She urged all States to heed the voices of the hibakusha and recognize nuclear weapons as weapons of mass destruction with devastating humanitarian consequences, commit to prevent the possibility of escalation, and fulfil their article VI commitments.
YUTA TAKAHASHI, Peace Boat, said he spoke for a young generation around the world — consistently neglected by Government policies and decisions, born into nuclear regime to which they did never consented. Many of their grandparents were born into a world where nuclear weapons were non-existent — “but our generation was not so fortunate,” he said. In 2000, when many of them were born, it is estimated there were over 30,000 nuclear weapons, representing the right of nuclear-weapon States to “raise a Sword of Damocles” over their heads. Older generations have continued to expand their nuclear arsenals. “It is 100 seconds to midnight and the doorstep of doom is no place to loiter,” he stressed. Young people and citizens of the world would suffer for generations, as scientific studies show that the detonation of even a limited number of warheads would cause unprecedented devastation to the planet. Every war increases the possibility of nuclear war, so “the time to act is now, and we cannot remain complacent.”
BENETICK KABUA MADDISON, also of Peace Boat, said as inheritors of the planet, the young demand that nuclear powers heed their call and free them from the anguish of the nuclear threat. “We do not want to live in fearful uncertainty any longer,” he stressed. Due to nuclear tests by the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russian Federation and China, frontline communities in the Marshall Islands, French Polynesia, Kazakhstan and other places are already suffering the combined consequences of nuclear weapons and climate change, with radiogenic illnesses and the threat of radiation spreading into the rising seas. There is no such thing as a greener, healthier, fair world in which nuclear weapons exist, he stressed, as they are cogs in deeply rooted and interlinked systems of oppression and violence, racism, sexism and ableism. For decades, the United Nations has had the power to ensure that people live in peace without nuclear wildfires — “but due to your inaction, the threat of proliferation and warfare is at the top of a list of crises that will follow us throughout lives and bleed into the lives of our children,” he stressed. “Is this the world you wish to build?” he asked. “Is this the legacy you wish to leave behind?” The representatives of youth demand seats at the disarmament table and will not be silent.
IRA HELFAND, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, said that, while most nations have honoured their commitments to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, nine nations, including five Treaty members, have instead maintained “enormous” stockpiles and engaged in “wildly expensive schemes” to modernize and enhance their arsenals. “They have continued to gamble with the fate of the Earth, holding all of humanity hostage,” he said, bringing it on many occasions to the brink of nuclear apocalypse. He pointed to a recent joint statement with the World Medical Association, International Council of Nurses, World Federation of Public Health Associations and the International Federation of Medical Student Associations in this context. The extreme danger has been amplified by the invasion of Ukraine, with the Russian Federation repeatedly threatening to use nuclear weapons, and NATO responding with nuclear threats of its own. In response, 18 Nobel Peace Prize laureates issued a statement — endorsed by 1 million people and presented at the United Nations — calling on the two sides to pledge that they will not use nuclear weapons. “Their answer — a thunderous silence,” he said. He pressed the nuclear-weapon States parties to the Treaty to enter into negotiations — at the Review Conference — for a verifiable, enforceable, time-bound agreement to eliminate these weapons, and invite the other four nuclear-armed States to join them, bringing them all into compliance with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and article VI of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. “Our survival and the survival of our children demands nothing less,” he said.
JONATHAN GRANOFF, President of the Global Security Institute, noted that despite recognized disarmament obligations, the pursuit of security through military expenditures since 2000 has exceeded $30 trillion. Nuclear weapons remain a significant pillar in military doctrine, stimulate fear and thus more military expenditures — as those arsenals institutionalize adversity. Even though recent climate science informs that a small percentage of the world’s arsenal, even by one nation, would throw millions of tons of soot into the stratosphere destroying the agricultural base of civilization, adversity based on nuclear threats has only increased. “Ignoring past pledges puts the very fabric of civilization at risk,” he stressed. Military nationalistic myopia is joined by the mistaken belief that simply more capacity to destroy will bring more peace. “Let us begin with a new realism,” he urged, as nuclear weapons present a hurdle to the cooperation needed to address the global threats of the twenty‑first century. Common security is the multilateral expression of human security among nations, and the commitments made in the past wherever possible must be reaffirmed, with open minds to receive new proposals. “It is time to heed the words of Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell in their famous Manifesto: We appeal as human beings to human beings — remember your humanity, and forget the rest,” he said. “If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.” He stressed it is high time that diplomats of nuclear-weapon States commence focused, committed, thorough negotiations to fulfil their legal obligation to eliminate these horrific devices.
NOBORU SAKIYAMA, President of the Japanese Liaison Council of Second-Generation Atomic Bomb Survivors, noted both his parents were hibakusha of Nagasaki. His father was affected by the bomb four kilometres away from the hypocentre and was further exposed to radiation when he entered a bombed area less than two weeks later, describing the experience as “hell”. He had suffered from emphysema and a herniated intervertebral disk, which prevented him from working, and died of respiratory failure at the age of 69. His mother was seven kilometres away from the hypocentre, and later suffered from Alzheimer’s dementia, dying of pancreatic cancer at the age of 81. “We ourselves are nuclear victims because there is no scientific evidence to clearly deny the transgenerational genetic health effect of A-bomb radiation,” he stressed, with second-generation hibakusha, as well as their parents, having passed away from diseases such as cancer. He has a pancreatic cyst and worries that he may get pancreatic cancer like his mother. They are further subjected to social prejudice and discrimination in marriage and employment, left behind without any public assistance. He emphasized that one of the most serious human rights violations is the radiation effect on future generations, including those affected by the “nuclear experiment” in the Marshall Islands or the “peaceful uses of nuclear energy” in Chernobyl and Fukushima. There are also second-generation hibakusha in other countries, including on the Korean Peninsula resulting from Japan’s past colonization and war of aggression. He appealed for the recognition of the human rights of radiation victims, and for the abolition of nuclear weapons.