CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 November 2017

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The voice of survivors

IN THEIR PEACE Declarations at the commemoration of the anniversaries of the only two cities in the world to have been victim of an atomic explosion, the mayors of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki focussed on the July 7 vote in the United Nations (UN) when 122 nations put up their hands in favour of an across the board ban on nuclear weaponry and called for pressure to be put on all nuclear powers to dismantle their stockpiles.
 
The mayor of Hiroshima, Kazumi Matsui, bowed and thanked the 122 nations that voted in favour of the Nuclear Weapons Prohibitions Treaty.
 
His counterpart in Nagasaki, Tomihisa Taue, said, “As the only country in the world to have suffered wartime atomic bombings, I urge the Japanese government to reconsider the policy of relying on the nuclear umbrella and join the nuclear prohibition treaty at the earliest possible opportunity.”
 
Both mayors in their own way were critical of their government for joining the countries that have nuclear weapons, which either boycotted the meeting or abstained from voting, despite the fact that Japan itself is not a nuclear power.
 
Taue described it as incomprehensible and Matsui called on Tokyo to join the 122 nations in the call for a blanket ban.
 
The Nuclear Weapons Prohibitions Treaty comes almost 50 years after the signing of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968, which forbad nuclear powers to proliferate their nuclear stockpiles.
 
In his book, The Anarchical Society, Australian international relations scholar, Hedley Bull, notes that the Non-Proliferation Treaty recognised the great powers as having or being perceived as having special rights and duties, and one of the rights was to hold onto nuclear weapons and the duty was to police the world.
 
While at least the leaders of those states continue to insist on those rights and responsibilities, the 122 nations that agreed to the new treaty on July 7, which has already been ratified by 50 states and will be open for signature on September 20, do not.
 
This is the new institutional reality and Ramesh Thakur, from the Australian National University, says the nuclear powers cannot dismiss it; they have to respond.
 
Thakur adds that what the United Nations has done is stigmatise the possession, use and deployment of nuclear weapons based on the collective moral revulsion of whole communities. It has also stigmatised the very concept of nuclear weapons as a deterrence to war and robs them of their military usefulness and political clout.
 
But the big sin of the nuclear powers is failing to have demonstrated any reduction in their nuclear stockpiles putting them on a collision course with world concern over the rise to power of two mavericks in the nuclear game; Donald Trump, from the United States of America, and Kim Jong-un, from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
 
Trump has discarded Ronald Regan’s warning that a nuclear war has no winners and Kim, who is often portrayed as a mad man, is fighting a clever rearguard action to keep a world that really is against him at bay.
 
Nuclear fears have been stoked.
 
The joint call from the mayors of the two cities that were destroyed by atomic bombs in 1945 is timely, as the voices of those who represent those who have suffered unimaginable horrors must be listened to. JiM