Akira Kawasaki(Executive Committee member, Peace boat) Greetings to you all. I would like to take this chance to thank the organizers of Catholic Korea Peace Forum for giving me the opportunity for a speech today. I would like to give a presentation on the topic, “Is a world free of nuclear weapons possible? - A perspective from Japan.” To the question, ‘Is a world free of nuclear weapons possible?’, I would like to reply with a clear-cut answer “Yes.”. Elimination of nuclear weapons is possible. This is because nuclear weapons are weapons of self-destruction, aimed at annihilation of the entire human race. This serves no reasonable purpose in terms of national security or safety of people. “Nuclear weapons must be abolished,” the Japanese people have repeatedly appealed, based on what they have undergone in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. At the center of the appeals were the atomic bomb victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and one over Nagasaki on August 9. As a result, the estimated death toll amounted 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 70,000 in Nagasaki by the end of that year. Although accurate figures do not remain, research has shown that one in ten people exposed to radiation in Hiroshima was from the Korean Peninsula. At the time, the Korean Peninsula was under colonial rule by Japan, which explains that many Koreans lived in Japan at the time. Koreans were conscripted into forced labor by Japan during the colonial period, and many of these people were also exposed to the radiation from the atomic bomb. Even after that year, the aftermath and suffering of the atomic bomb victims continued. The consequences of radiation lasted for decades. All of the people who were exposed to high dose radiation immediately after the bombing and developed acute radiation syndrome died soon after. Among those who survived and are now referred to as ‘atomic bomb victims’, there are many who are suffering from critical illnesses such as cancer decades after the radiation exposure. In other words, it can be said that they have been always living with the bomb inside their body. According to the official position from the Japanese government, genetic effects on the second and third generations of those exposed to radiation are not recognized. However, it is true that many atomic bomb victims have family members who developed cancer or leukemia at a young age, and many of the survivors are concerned that the exposure may affect not just their generation but their offspring.The bleak truth is that a single atomic bomb destroyed an entire village, and that the heat rays, blasts, and radiation brought about miserable destruction; however, that is not the end of the story. The suffering of the atomic bomb victims continues to this day. We need to properly recognize the reality of continuing affliction even after 78 years. There are currently as many as 12,000 nuclear weapons in the world. This is a significant decrease compared to the numbers in the Cold War era. In the past, the number of nuclear arsenals was as high as 70,000 in the mid-1980s. The number was reduced substantially to 12,000. However, most of the 12,000 nuclear warheads that exist today are dozens to hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bombs used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the time. We will have to stretch our imagination to figure out what kind of consequences will arise if these weapons are used. There are still many of the nuclear weapons posing existential threats to humanity today. Moreover, nowadays, we have a situation of Russia’s ongoing military aggression against Ukraine. Also, there is the armed conflict between Israel, a nuclear-armed state in the Middle East, and Palestine. As for East Asia, there are mounting military tensions in relation to nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula or programs of North Korea on development of nuclear weapons or missiles. In this situation, the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons poses realistic, tangible threats. However, I believe we need to properly discern what will really happen to us if nuclear weapons are used in real-life conflicts. Nagasaki University, in collaboration with many international think tanks, has conducted research under the project title, “Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons Use in Northeast Asia: Implications for Reducing Nuclear Risk,” and the report on the findings of the research has been published. From the report, we can predict that if a serious armed conflict to the extent of using nuclear weapons breaks out in East Asia, it will escalate into catastrophic, irreversible consequences. Despite the presence of such threats, the reason why I stated at the beginning of the speech on purpose, “Elimination of nuclear weapons is possible,” is because, based on examples from history, when humanity is faced with situation of escalating threats, we learn a lesson from such threats and come up with solutions.For example, in 1961, the Cuban missile crisis broke out. The United States and the Soviet Union at the time came closest to an all-out nuclear war over the issues of deployment of nuclear missiles in Cuba. The two superpowers managed to avoid the worst consequence somehow. Now, do you know what happened after the crisis? Neighboring countries of Cuba in Latin America set out to establish the world's first nuclear-weapon-free zone, stating that the countries wanted not to repeat such nuclear threats ever again. This is the birth of Latin America's nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ), based on the Treaty of Tlatelolco, signed by the Latin American countries under the leadership of Mexico. Over time, the NWFZ expanded across different parts of the world. We now have NWFZ in much wider regions including South Pacific, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Central Asia. Mongolia is the only country in East Asia to declare the country an NWFZ. In this way, countries that were left to face nuclear threats have chosen the path of denuclearization . On the other hand, nuclear-armed states also made some efforts. The United States and the Soviet Union continued to engage in nuclear arms race, but in 1985, the leaders of the two countries, Reagan and Gorbachev, published a joint statement that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.’ In other words, the countries that possessed, developed, and deployed nuclear weapons themselves realized ‘if the current rate of an increase in nuclear warheads continues, it will lead to disastrous consequences’ and changed their political and strategical direction toward disarmament. Then, in 1987, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was signed. At the time, there were discussions that all classes of nuclear weapons should be abolished and not just intermediate-range ones. Although the two countries have not reached that stage, it can be said that the INF Treaty has made some progress toward disarmament. In the end, there was the so-called Cold War era that lasted for more than 40 years after World War II, but the countries that continued the nuclear arms race to take supremacy realized that ‘the current arms race should not continue’ and established a number of consultative bodies to discuss disarmament. However, unfortunately, there is also a movement to nullify such efforts and discussion or destroy international agreements or systems of disarmament. Fighting against such movement, the campaigns to make some real progress in disarmament in accordance with international law have also gained momentum. I think in the current global political landscape, the two sides are confronting each other at loggerheads.From the viewpoint of disarmament regime under international law, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) entered into force more than 50 years ago. Most of the countries in the world signed as a party to the NPT. However, the problem was that the five nuclear-weapon states recognized in the NPT have not made sufficient efforts to actually practice nuclear disarmament. Also, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was adopted more than 25 years ago. However, this treaty has not entered into force yet. Still, most of the countries in the world have already signed the treaty, to the effect that these countries are banned from conducting nuclear tests. With North Korea as the only exception, most countries around the world have chosen not to conduct nuclear tests. However, Russia recently made a parliamentary decision to revoke its ratification of the treaty. The reason for withdrawal from the treaty was, “Russia is mirroring the position of the U.S.” Obviously, the United States and China have not yet ratified the treaty, resulting in a setback from the perspective of nuclear disarmament. In this regard, rather than viewing nuclear weapons as a means of taking over supremacy among nations, campaigns to think of nuclear weapons with a focus on devastating consequences, the damage and victims from the use of the weapons or from the perspective of the impact on human life, society and environment have gained increasing attention. The first proposal of CTBT was a culmination of ongoing civil society movements since the 1980s that stemmed from the awareness that the environment would be polluted and damaged by nuclear tests taking place around the world, resulting in catastrophic harm to all of us living on Earth. Likewise, a civil society campaign called the ‘World Court Project’ in the 1990s led to an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1996 that ‘the threat or use of nuclear weapons is illegal under international law’. The ICJ also ruled that all states that possess nuclear weapons are obligated to bring to a conclusion on nuclear disarmament in all its aspects. The campaigns and ICJ’s ruling paved the way for the ‘Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)’. A treaty for total banning of nuclear weapons and setting a path to their abolition was advocated by a global movement led by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and countries such as Austria, Mexico, and Costa Rica joined in supporting the global movement to take further steps. TPNW was adopted by the UN in 2017 and entered into force in 2021. As of today, the time when this video footage is filmed, 97 countries have either signed the TPNW or already joined as the member states. That is, approximately half of the countries in the world are already members to the TPNW. These countries have reached a consensus that nuclear weapons cannot be tolerated under any circumstances. The foundation of this treaty was the idea that the possession and use of nuclear weapons are against humanitarian principles. Half of the countries in the world have joined the TPNW, which regards the use of nuclear weapons as a violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL, also referred to as the laws of armed conflict), stating that the devastating consequences in humanitarian terms that nuclear weapons would bring are totally unacceptable under any circumstances. This is a critically important progress in history. It can be said that this progress has been made as a result of the efforts over the last 10 years. However, unfortunately, few countries in East Asia, especially Northeast Asia, have signed the TPNW. Mongolia is the only exception and all other countries in the region have not joined the treaty as yet.The reason for such low rate of endorsement is thought to be the political logic named ‘Nuclear Deterrence Theory,’ which is still prevalent in this region. China, Russia and the United States are nuclear-armed states. North Korea also possesses nuclear weapons and is gradually increasing its nuclear weapons and missile capabilities. South Korea and Japan do not possess nuclear weapons and are therefore members of the NPT, and in Japan's case, they also have the Three Non-Nuclear Principles. However, both countries have a policy of relying on the nuclear umbrella, a security commitment, of the U.S. In the past, U.S. nuclear weapons were deployed on the Korean Peninsula, and nuclear weapons were also deployed in Japan during the Cold War. Under these circumstances, I think the biggest challenge for us to confront is how to bring changes in the national and regional security situations in which the countries are dependent on nuclear weapons, as well as facing the limitations as a divided nation. The civil society movements in Japan, in cooperation with those in South Korea, have proposed the establishment of an NWFZ in Northeast Asia and pushed for its implementation.South Korea, Japan, and North Korea joining the TPNW at the same time may serve as an effective method to establish an NWFZ in Northeast Asia. When the three countries singed the TPNW, North Korea will naturally have an obligation under international law to abolish its nuclear weapons in a verifiable manner within a given timeline. Meanwhile, South Korea and Japan, as signatories of the treaty, will be bound by a legal obligation not to assist or promote the policy of the U.S. using nuclear weapons on behalf of South Korea and Japan. In this way, we will all be able to assure national and regional security that does not rely on nuclear weapons. Under this aim, it is important that civil societies in the region work in partnership in unity. Japanese civic groups are promoting large-scale movement and campaigns in Japan based on mutual cooperation. Furthermore, we are making formal requests that the Japanese government attend the Second Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW, which will take place from November 27th this year at the UN Headquarters in New York City. Even if Japan cannot sign or ratify the TPNW right away on this occasion, there will be a route to participate in the meeting as an observer. We would like to make the same request for the South Korean government.