JCP Chair Shii explains his response to U.S. President Obama's call for 'a world without nuclear weapons'

At a news conference in Tokyo on April 30, Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo explained his response to U.S. President Barack Obama's call for a "world without nuclear weapons."

Single focus on eliminating nuclear weapons

I sent a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama on April 28 focusing on the issue of the elimination of nuclear weapons. I called this news conference to explain what I stated in it.

I decided to send the letter to the U.S. president because I recognized the great importance of his April 5 speech in Prague calling on the world for nuclear weapons to be abolished.In Japan, the only country to suffer nuclear attack, the Japanese Communist Party has been struggling among the people to get nuclear weapons eliminated from the world. This being our position, I decided to write a letter to convey our ideas and request for the elimination of nuclear weapons because this is a universal task.

Three points in Obama speech caught my attention

In the letter, I first stated that his speech in Prague left a strong impression on me. There were three points that caught my attention.

Firstly, it was the first time that a U.S. president clearly declared that achieving "a world without nuclear weapons,' or the elimination of nuclear weapons, is a national goal.

The second point is that the United States for the first time stated that its use of nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a matter of moral irresponsibility and that the U.S. has the moral responsibility now to act toward eliminating nuclear weapons.

The third point is that the president is calling on the peoples of the world to work together to make the world free of nuclear weapons.

I wrote: "That you made such official declarations as a U.S. president is of historic significance for both humanity as a whole, and the people of the world's only A-bombed country in particular, which I heartily welcome."

Start international negotiations aimed at abolishing nuclear weapons

Then I frankly stated, "I beg to differ with you when you said in the speech: The goal of a world without nuclear weapons will not be reached, "perhaps in my lifetime."

The first U.N. General Assembly resolution adopted in 1946 stated that the United Nations would work for the "elimination from national arsenals of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction." It was proposed jointly by the United States, the Soviet Union, France, Britain, China, and Canada, and supported by all member countries.

Sixty-three years have elapsed since then, and the nuclear-weapons states have not even called for negotiations aimed at eliminating nuclear weapons as a straight task, not to mention entering into such negotiations.

It might take a long time to proceed from a call for negotiations to their actual start, and then to reach an agreement. However, no one can tell how long it might be before the task begins. It is premature to say it will not be reached in any one's lifetime. What is most important now is to call for international negotiations directly focused on abolishing nuclear weapons and immediately start negotiations. This is possible right now if there is the will to do so.

From this viewpoint, I wrote in the letter as follows:

"By demonstrating the initiative for 'a world without nuclear weapons,' you will open up the door to a challenge that no one has ever undertaken. ….. Consequently, I strongly request that you take the initiative for starting international negotiations for the conclusion of an international treaty for the elimination of nuclear weapons."

On relations between partial measures and elimination of nuclear weapons

In the letter, I stated the JCP's view regarding the relation between partial nuclear disarmament measures and the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Regarding concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons, Mr. Obama called for starting negotiations for a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, pursuing the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and a new treaty that verifiably ends production of fissile materials intended for use in nuclear weapons.

I wrote this because "I believe that these concrete steps can have a positive and constructive significance when they are tackled together with the goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons."

I stated this because of the fact there are more than 20,000 nuclear weapons stockpiled in the world despite negotiations for partial measures. These nuclear weapons are enough to kill everyone on the planet 20 or 30 times over.

Negotiations for partial measures have taken place, but without a clear objective set for eliminating all nuclear weapons. This weakness persisted in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) in the 1970s and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in the 1990s between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and later Russia.

The 1963 Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) signed by the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain legalized underground nuclear tests, which unleashed a major nuclear arms race.

Taking this history in account, I wrote, "I am convinced that the whole process has proved that 'a world without nuclear weapons' cannot be achieved only through these measures in the absence of the objective of abolishing nuclear weapons themselves."

In this context, I'm paying attention to the fact that Mr. Obama mentioned a series of concrete steps to be taken "towards a world without nuclear weapons."

Make a 'unequivocal undertaking' at NPT Review Conference toward elimination of nuclear weapons

In the letter, I went on to say, "The same holds true for the regime of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)."

While we are opposed to the emergence of more nuclear-weapons states under whatever pretext, the JCP has consistently pointed out that the NPT is a discriminatory and unequal international treaty without precedent.

However, it is a fact that the international community has accepted the NPT regime. It is because the nuclear-weapons states promised to make earnest efforts to eliminate their nuclear arsenals in accordance with Article 6 of the NPT. Despite the treaty, the number of nuclear-weapons countries has been increasing. Why? I wrote in the letter that "underlying this is the fact that the nuclear powers have not been true to their pledge in the last 39 years since the NPT entered into force."

I further pointed out in the letter, "We must stress that only when they tackle the task of eliminating nuclear weapons, will they obtain the political and moral power to dissuade other countries from pursuing nuclear weapons."

So I wrote, "I sincerely hope that the nuclear-weapons states reaffirm their commitment to an 'unequivocal undertaking' towards the elimination of nuclear weapons in the 2010 NPT Review Conference."

Hope for positive response, action

Regarding Japan-U.S. relations, the JCP calls for putting an end to Japan's subservience to the United States and building a new relationship on an equal footing. Although there are differences on many issues between the JCP and the U.S. administration, including the issue of U.S. military bases in Japan and overseas dispatches of Japanese troops, I focused on the cause of the abolition of nuclear weapons as a universal task.

I hope that Mr. Obama will take positive action in response to this letter.

Make every possible effort to eliminate nuclear weapons

On the morning of April 28, I visited James Zumwalt, charge d'affaires ad interim at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and directly handed him the letter to President Obama.

I explained what I stated in the letter.

Mr. Zumwalt first expressed his appreciation for the letter and told me that he would certainly convey it to the White House. Taking into account the time needed for the letter to be delivered to the president, we decided to publish it at this hour today (2:00 p.m.).

We will send copies of this letter to all U.N. member countries through their embassies in Japan, and to the U.N. secretary-general and the U.N. General Assembly president.

Welcoming the Obama speech in Prague, we will make every effort to turn his appeal for "a world without nuclear weapons" into reality even though we are still an opposition party.

When I met with visiting Communist Party of Vietnam General Secretary Nong Duc Manh recently, I told him that we welcome the Obama remarks. Mr. Manh said, "We were also encouraged by the U.S. president's remark. We hope that his announcement will bring a greater opportunity for the world to finally eliminate nuclear weapons." Manh and I agreed to cooperate with each other for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

The JCP will strongly call on nuclear weapons-possessing nations, including the United States and Russia, and on the international community to start international negotiations focusing on the abolition of nuclear weapons. I again express my determination to exert all my powers to achieve the long-cherished wish of the people of only A-bombed country for the abolition of all nuclear weapons on earth.

<<Questions and answers>>

North Korea's nuclear program and effort to abolish nuclear weapons

QUESTION: In disregard of President Obama's speech, North Korea has raised an objection to a U.N. Security Council resolution and indicated that it would conduct a nuclear test.

SHII: I believe that the international community should make every diplomatic effort to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear program. The Six-Party Talks is the most appropriate framework to reach such a diplomatic settlement, and it is important for the international community to strive to encourage North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks.

At the same time, the international community needs to devote itself to the global elimination of nuclear weapons. Such an effort, especially made by nuclear-weapons states, will be a major force to help settle the issue of North Korea's nuclear program.

The U.S. president has sent out his message calling for "a world without nuclear weapons." If nuclear powers say, "We will abandon our nuclear arsenals, so you should do the same," their message will have undeniable persuasiveness. Therefore, if we are to solve the issue of North Korea's nuclear program, it is essential that an international negotiation start as soon as possible with the aim of abolishing all nuclear weapons.

President Obama delivered his speech in Prague immediately after North Korea's rocket launch. He criticized North Korea's move and at the same time called for "a world without nuclear weapons". I found this very important.

U.S. president's visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Question: In Hiroshima, atomic-bomb survivors (Hibakusha) are inviting U.S. President Obama to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What do you think of this?

SHII: I share the Hibakusha's hope that Mr. Obama visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, meet with Hibakusha, see the A-bomb damage firsthand, and mourn for all the victims of the atomic bombings.

I did not mention this in my letter because I tried to focus on a call for the global abolition of nuclear weapons.

View on U.S. administration

QUESTION: The JCP has been very critical of the United States regarding the issues of nuclear weapons and U.S. bases in Japan. In this letter, do you hint at any modification of the JCP's stance?

SHII: I would say that there has been some change in the U.S. administration. As I stated in my letter, it is very important to note that a U.S. president for the first time stated publicly that "a world without nuclear weapons" or the elimination of nuclear weapons, is a national goal and that "as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act."

As I stated earlier, the JCP is critical of what is going on regarding Japan-U.S. relations, including the issue of the U.S. bases in Japan and the dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces abroad.

From this point of view, there is a big difference between the JCP and the U.S. administration. Despite the differences, however, we heartily welcome the Obama remarks about pursuing the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons. By sending this letter to him, we wanted to express our readiness to do whatever we can as an opposition party to achieve this goal.

When U.S. President Ronald Regan visited Japan in 1983 and gave a speech before the Diet, he said, "I know I speak for people everywhere when I say our dream is to see the day when nuclear weapons will be banished from the face of the Earth."

Mr. Obama in his speech clearly declared to the world that he is setting a national goal of eliminating nuclear weapons. This is an important step forward. We thought that we should welcome this remark and respond to it positively.

On previous JCP letters to U.S. presidents

QUESTION: Has the JCP chair ever sent letters to U.S. presidents before?

SHII: The first letter for the JCP to send to the U.S. president was in June 1983 to then President Ronald Reagan from the JCP Central Committee calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons because the nuclear arms race was seriously threatening world peace. A similar letter was also sent to the leader of the Soviet Union.

The second such letter was sent from JCP Central Committee Chair Miyamoto Kenji in January 1984 to President Reagan. That was in response to Reagan's speech delivered before the Japanese Diet, in which he stated, "[O]ur dream is to see the day when nuclear weapons will be banished from the face of the Earth." Chair Miyamoto also sent a similar letter to the Soviet leader.

The third letter was also sent to U.S. President Reagan from JCP Central Committee Chair Miyamoto regarding a joint statement on an agreement he reached on the elimination of nuclear weapons with Communist Party of the Soviet Union General Secretary K.U. Chernenko in December 1984.

The fourth letter was sent to U.S. President Reagan in 1986 from JCP Chair Miyamoto regarding a proposal of Mikhail Gorbachev, CPSU general secretary, for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Miyamoto also sent a similar letter to Gorbachev.

In 1998, JCP Chair Fuwa Tetsuzo sent a letter to the leaders of all nuclear-weapons countries, including the U.S. president. That was the fifth letter.

The most recent letter was also in response to the U.S. president's historic remarks. I visited the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo for the first time as JCP leader. The charge d'affaires ad interim at the U.S. Embassy received me. I explained our intention to him, that our action will bear fruit.

Relations between U.S. and JCP

QUESTION: Is this the first time in JCP history that a JCP leader officially commended a U.S. move, though partially?

SHII: It is probably for the first time that the JCP expressed its sincere welcome to a U.S. move on a key issue in international politics.

In my meeting with the charge d'affaires ad interim in U.S. Embassy, as I stated in the letter, I told him that differences persist between the United States and the JCP regarding how the Japan-U.S. relationship should be changed. I also told him that I would like to explain our view on U.S. military bases in Japan and other issues.

The ambassador said that it is impossible to discuss everything in one meeting and that he hopes for further discussions to take place to help better understand each other.

This turned out to be the beginning of a normalization of relations between the United States and the Japanese Communist Party, in which both sides can discuss any issues, including points of disagreement. We would then be able to convey our frank views regarding points of agreement and express our opinions wherever we have differences with the U.S. side. I think I made use of a very important opportunity to pursue further exchanges.

- Akahata, May 1, 2009

The Central Committee of the Japanese Communist Party
4-26-7 Sendagaya,Shibuya-ku,Tokyo 151-8586