NAGASAKI--Most of us probably cannot imagine a time when the world will be nuclear-free.
But experts say the disarmament process itself is a "realistic" political option that makes sustainable global peace achievable.
That is the message that came out of the International Symposium for Peace 2012, held here July 28. The event drew experts of international politics and nuclear weapons issues from Japan, China and the United States.
The annual symposium, first held in Hiroshima in 1995, now meets every other year in Nagasaki.
It offers a venue for experts to discuss ridding the world of nuclear arsenals with citizens of two cities that lived through the August 1945 atomic bombings.
Following are summaries of opening remarks. They were abridged and reorganized by The Asahi Shimbun, which co-sponsors the event with Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The panel members were Bruce Blair, president of the World Security Institute and co-founder of Global Zero, an international non-partisan group of 300 world leaders, and Shen Dingli, a professor of international politics at Fudan University in China.
Other speakers were Nobumasa Akiyama, an associate professor of international politics and nonproliferation expert at Hitotsubashi University and researcher with the Independent Investigation Commission on the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Accident, and Keiko Nakamura, a nuclear disarmament expert at Nagasaki University.
The session was coordinated by Toshiaki Miura, The Asahi Shimbun's editorial writer.
BLAIR: REDUCING NUCLEAR ARMS "FEASIBLE, ESSENTIAL AND URGENT"
As an American, I feel a special responsibility to join hands with Nagasaki's citizens in recognizing the incredible sacrifice and suffering of people at the hands of a horrific weapon that should never have been used.
The top world leaders of the Global Zero movement are calling upon the United States, Russia, and other key countries, including Japan, to support the following three steps toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
First, the United States and Russia should reduce their nuclear stockpiles by 80 percent over the next 10 years, down from 5,000 each today to 900. Second, they should agree to take all of their strategic missiles off of launch-ready alert so that they cannot be fired quickly.
Third, the United States and Russia should convene the first multilateral negotiations in history among all the nuclear weapons countries and key non-nuclear countries to cap, freeze and reduce nuclear arsenals of all nuclear countries with a view to ultimately eliminating them.
These steps are feasible, essential, and urgent.
Mutual nuclear deterrence is no longer a cornerstone of the U.S.-Russian security relationship.
There is absolutely no conceivable situation in which it would be in either country's interest to initiate a nuclear attack against the other side.
The 21st century threats facing the world cannot be countered by using our nuclear arsenals.
Our powerful nuclear arsenal failed to deter the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and proved completely useless in responding to them.
Nuclear weapons cannot remove threats posed by failed states, nuclear proliferation, terrorists, organized crime, regional conflicts or civil wars.
They have become more a part of the problem rather than the solution, because our huge nuclear stockpiles and production facilities run the risk of theft by terrorists.
Nuclear weapons cannot be used without losing our humanity. They shouldn't be in the hands of anyone, be it a state or a terrorist, because they will inevitably used sooner or later with devastating consequences.
The time has come for world leaders to stand up and declare before the general assembly of United Nations that the possession or use of nuclear weapons is a crime against humanity.
Then they must turn their words into actual, concrete deeds leading to total elimination by some certain date. I am absolutely certain that if we all join hands, we can achieve "global zero" in our lifetimes.
SHEN: NUCLEAR WEAPONS, BURDEN FOR CHINA
Nuclear weapons are both a burden and an asset for China. It is our dilemma.
I personally think that nuclear weapons constitute more of a burden, because the political usefulness of nuclear weapons in China's national security is getting smaller.
Even if we are a much smaller nuclear nation compared to Russia and the United States, it is still hard for us to persuade Iran or North Korea not to develop nuclear weapons, simply because we have nuclear weapons.
If China can abandon the traditional thinking that nuclear weapons are the only forces that can make China secure, we can probably ask other countries not to have nuclear weapons.
If we do not spend our resources on nuclear weapons, we can allocate them to environmental protection, the improvement of human rights and further economic prosperity. But why do we still have nuclear weapons and why are so many Chinese proud that we are a nuclear state?
China is surrounded by many nuclear states, the United States, Russia, possibly North Korea, India and Pakistan, and other neighbors, such as Japan and South Korea, are protected by nuclear weapons states.
It is reasonable for us to wait for the United States to remove its threat against us. If the United States and Russia move forward, it will make a good case for medium nuclear states like China to be engaged in the reduction process.
It is also possible for nuclear weapons countries to unilaterally disarm, probably not completely, without joining bilateral talks in order to lead other countries.
China has set a principle of not using nuclear weapons first against any country and under any circumstance and closed our physical production of nuclear arms materials.
These are unilateral efforts to put a ceiling on our nuclear capability. There are many ways we can lead the world in a peaceful race.
I hope two nuclear states, China and the United States, can extend our cooperation in reducing suspicion and acting as responsible partners in this matter.
China and Japan could collaborate in providing better mutual transparency and mutual assistance to assure that China's nuclear weapons would not be used against Japan as a threat and that our respectable civilian nuclear assets are accountable.
AKIYAMA: POLITICS NEED TO REFLECT REALITY
As none of us at this venue imagine a nuclear war between the United States and China, it is already a reality that the world cannot afford nuclear warfare.
The challenge we face now is how we can make our realistic sense take form through the international arms reduction process. We have yet to find an answer to this question.
A nuclear-free world does not necessarily mean a world without warfare, so it is imperative for us to come up with a security framework for the future that can deter warfare without nuclear weapons.
East Asia is actually the world's major conjunction of nuclear weapons states and countries that have promoted civilian utilization of nuclear power.
The key bilateral relationship in the nuclear disarmament process in this region will be between the United States and China.
But Japan also needs to spontaneously engage in the process to come up with a future security framework without nuclear arms in the region, rather than leaving the argument entirely up to Washington and Beijing.
In order to make the region some form of a nuclear-free zone, we need to come up with a security framework that does not rely on nuclear weapons. And to create the framework, parties have a long way to forge mutual trust.
I believe we can accelerate this process by facing the political and economic reality of this region.
The region's economy is so mutually dependent that an attack against one of the countries will bring catastrophic damage to the economies of other countries.
I call it new MAD, or "mutual assured dependency," not the Cold War-era idea of "mutual assured destruction" that was thought to deter nuclear warfare.
The other realism we must incorporate in the disarmament talks is our humanitarianism today.
During the war in Afghanistan and other recent warfare, U.S. off-target bombings were widely criticized in the international community when they took the lives of even a handful of civilians.
It is becoming virtually impossible for a country to use nuclear weapons that can kill tens of thousands of civilians only to achieve one strategic goal.
It is of critical importance for us to incorporate these realities of today in the arms reduction process.
NAKAMURA: JAPAN MUST PART FROM OLD "REALISM"
Today, the global movement calling for nuclear disarmament is finding its ground on the inhumane consequences of using nuclear weapons, but it is extremely unfortunate that the Japanese government has not taken the lead at the international level in advancing this movement.
One manifestation of this reality is the fact that Japan was not "invited" to the declaration that 16 countries adopted on the humanitarian aspects of nuclear disarmament at the recent meeting of the First Preparatory Committee for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.
It is becoming the world's consensus that Japan, despite the suffering of citizens of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, is indifferent to the world's efforts to combat nuclear proliferation and reduce nuclear arsenals.
The reason behind Japan's weakening credibility is that it still depends on the extended U.S. nuclear deterrence for its security.
It looks as if we are unwilling to review our traditional thinking that nuclear weapons have deterrence power and are critically important for our national security.
This belief has become so deeply rooted that we have given trying to find alternative thinking.
In order to break away from this negative way of thinking, we must start working to bridge the common sentiment of people of Nagasaki with that of Japan and the world.
But still, we have to address a question that would be raised by "realists," which is how Japan can secure its safety in this complex geopolitical situation in East Asia while contributing to the world's efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament.
I believe working toward signing a multinational treaty to make East Asia a nuclear-free zone is a realistic starting point.
"Realists" may say that it is impossible to denuclearize the region unless North Korea abandons its nuclear ambitions, but I believe here we need to reverse our way of traditional thinking.
As we learned from six-party talks (on the North Korea nuclear issue), it is reasonable to assume that starting talks to denuclearize the region will help us forge mutual trust and eventually push Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear programs.
In this sense, talks on disarmament represent a realistic option to bring about sustainable peace.
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