On the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, he parroted U.S. President Barack Obama’s call for a world without nuclear weapons.
“I pledge to make every effort toward the realization of permanent world peace so that there is no recurrence of the tragedy caused by nuclear weapons,” Abe said in his speech during a commemorative ceremony in the city on Aug. 6.
However, in a meeting afterward with representatives of groups made up of atomic bomb survivors, Abe had to listen to criticism directed at the recent decision by his Cabinet to change the government interpretation of the Constitution to allow for the exercise of the right to collective self-defense.
Those representatives asked that Abe retract the decision since it would lead to Japan becoming a nation capable of waging war.
Abe justified the decision by citing his oft-used explanation about the safety of Japanese being paramount and pointed to the seriousness of the security situation facing Japan.
With regard to nuclear disarmament, Abe said, “We will play a leading role in the international community.”
But that will not be easy for Japan, given its reliance on nuclear deterrence for its national security under the U.S. nuclear umbrella.
The difference between Japan and nations that do not have a military alliance with the United States was clearly demonstrated in a meeting of the Nonproliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) in Hiroshima in April. Among the 12 nations in the initiative, those that have not signed alliance agreements with Washington called for the conclusion of an international treaty that would ban nuclear weapons.
However, Japan and other U.S. allies were decidedly passive in their responses to that proposal.
Because he represents a district in Hiroshima Prefecture, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida worked hard to bring the NPDI meeting to the A-bombed city, the first time such a meeting has been held in Japan. Still, the NPDI is not high on the political agenda of the Abe administration, which has stressed strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance as well as Japan’s own defense capabilities.
Moreover, the Abe administration’s efforts toward exporting nuclear energy technology also run counter to efforts being made on nuclear nonproliferation.
Japan has signed 14 nuclear energy agreements with other nations and international organizations. Those agreements have as a precondition that the technology will only be used for peaceful purposes.
Japan is currently negotiating a nuclear agreement with India, even though New Delhi is asking that it be allowed to reprocess spent nuclear fuel.
Japanese government officials are hesitant to go along with the request because the reprocessed fuel could be used to develop nuclear weapons.
A Foreign Ministry source said: “Peaceful use of nuclear technology and nuclear weapon production are the opposite sides of a coin. There could be some danger depending on the nation negotiating the nuclear agreement.”