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Bikini DayCrises and the Opportunities of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty Review

International Forum, Gensuikyo 2014 March 1 Bikini Day National Conference

Joseph Gerson – Bikini Day Commemorations - February, 2014

           I want to thank Gensuikyo for the privilege to participate in this year’s Bikini Day commemorations. On this 60th anniversary of the Bravo test we honor those who alerted Japan and the world to the H-bombing, the courage of Kuboyama Aikichi and Oishi Matashichi who has campaigned tirelessly to fulfill that dream. It is a time to celebrate Gensuikyo and Hidankyo for their vision and leadership.  We saw their impact at the Nayarit conference on The Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons attended by 146 governments and civil society.

This is also an occasion to renew our solidarity with Rongelap survivors and their descendants who have struggled for survival after an H-bomb more powerful that all of the explosives detonated in World War II, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki, warned the world, and who rightly demand recognition of their rights and dignity.


This past year, most of the world’s governments expressed their anger and frustration over the failure of the nuclear powers to fulfill their Article VI NPT obligations. Recall the U.N. Open Ended Working Group’s recommendations, the debate at the U.N. High Level Meeting on Disarmament, at the Oslo and Nayarit conferences, and in the General Assembly resolution calling for negotiations for a nuclear weapons abolition convention to begin this year.

There is also a near-nuclear power whose actions must also be challenged.  Prime Minister Abe’s move to transform Japan’s post-war political system recalls the military-fascism of the Fifteen Year War and which threatens to spark a great power war, potentially nuclear war, over uninhabited rocks, is raising alarms in many capitals. With U.S. encouragement, Japan now has a repressive state secrets act. Militarized nationalism is being stoked with visits to Yasakuni Shrine, and by the campaign to deny Japan’s wartime aggression, the murderous Nanjing Massacre, and the imposition of sexual slavery.  NHK is being transformed into a propaganda agency.  The Foreign Minister of the world’s only A-bombed nation has not only hinted that U.S. nuclear weapons could be welcomed in Japan despite the Three Non-Nuclear Principles, and has affirmed the  right of nations – including by implication Japan -  to use nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances.. And Abe’s dangerous denial of reality is also seen in preparations to dangerously reinterpret Article 9.

But, like a broken clock, Abe can be right twice a day. As if he were an innocent, he compared current dynamics in East Asia to those in Europe in 1914. Henry Kissinger, Joseph Nye and even U.N. High Commissioner for Disarmament Angela Kane have made similar comparisons. We must take these warnings seriously. As in 1914, this is an era of growing military competition between rising and declining powers. There are territorial disputes and resource competition, arms races with new and potentially catastrophic technologies, complex military alliances, rising nationalism and wild card actors from Prime Minister Abe to Kim Jung Un.  Like 1914, there is also the mistaken belief that because great power war would end civilization, it is unthinkable.

U.S. Nuclear Policies & Politics

              Even with Bush the Lesser relegated to history, the U.S. still has its share of madness. Preferring nuclear cataclysm to diplomacy Congressman Duncan Hunter recently urged that we nuke Iran.  The U.S. nuclear program is wracked by scandals: Air Force nuclear weapons officers caught gambling and cheating, failures to protect nuclear launch codes, failed safety inspections and low moral.  Sailors were caught cheating during trainings to operate nuclear reactors.  As we were reminded in Nayarit, these developments increase the   possibility of nuclear detonations and war resulting from mistakes, miscalculations, or terrorist attacks. 

Worse, during the past year the U.S. conducted simulated nuclear attacks against North Korea, and at the height of military tensions over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands Obama dispatched a nuclear-capable B-52 bomber to fly unannounced through China’s newly declared Air Defense International Zone.  These provocations could have triggered catastrophic miscalculations.

Tragically, Obama’s commitment to a nuclear weapons-free world is no longer credible. He is reinforcing nuclear apartheid by pressing necessary non-proliferation initiatives, while implementing what Secretary of Defense/War Hagel termed “ambitious plans to upgrade [U.S.] nuclear weapons systems by modernizing weapons and building new submarines, missiles and bombers to deliver them.”[i] This, as if 7,700 U.S. strategic nuclear weapons weren’t enough. Cost estimates for this modernization run as high as $1 trillion.[ii]  The recently tested new B-61 gravity bomb, is the first in the U.S. nuclear arsenal to be reconfigured. A new plutonium factory in Los Alamos and a Uranium Processing Facility at Oak Ridge are to be built. Nor is the Obama Administration committed to multilateral disarmament diplomacy. It refused to fulfill its 2010 NPT Review commitment to co-convene the Middle East Nuclear Weapons and WMD Free-Zone conference, further jeopardizing the NPT.  It boycotted the U.N. Open Ended Working Group and the Oslo and Nayarit Human Consequences conferences. And those who observed the U.N. High Level Meeting were shocked by the P-3 and U.S. statements that these forums – including the High Level Meeting – are a “distraction.”

Rather than pursuing Common Security diplomacy with Russia or China, which could provide the foundation for disarmament negotiations, the expansion of NATO, U.S. deployment of first- strike-related “missile defenses”, and its space and cyber-warfare dominance  have led Tsar Putin and the Russian military to rely increasingly on their nuclear arsenal.  China recently countered the Pentagon’s “Prompt Global Strike” missile by testing of its own hyper-sonic weapon, and Beijing is expanding its nuclear arsenal and wavering in its no-first-strike commitments.  No wonder the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recently urged the U.S. and Russia – who possess 98% of the world’s nuclear arms – to “return to the negotiating table.”

Good News

              Turning to hopeful news, I want to celebrate the moral courage of the Okinawan people. Despite pressure from the U.S. and the LDP, financial inducements, bribery, and Governor Nakaima’s betrayal, Okinawans hold steadfastly to their life-affirming commitments for the withdrawal of military bases, for peace and to the environment. Their struggle is our own, and their spirit can inspire us as we build for the 2015 NPT Review.

              During the World Conference in August, Judith LeBlanc and I were deeply moved by the dedication of Japanese grassroots activists and by their pledges to bring even more activists to New York in 2015 than in 2010. We and our partners know that a lot is expected of us.

              There are a host of forces to engage. This past year, an ad-hoc formation led by the AFSC, Peace Action, the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, Western States Legal Foundation and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation has coordinated consultations among U.S. disarmament leaders. We initiated sign on letters, a petition and an e-mail campaign urging the Obama Administration to engage constructively in multilateral disarmament diplomacy leading to nuclear weapons abolition. The relationships growing from this organizing were also designed to serve as a foundation for our NPT Review mobilization.

              There will be many side events during this Spring’s PrepCom, so we willhost a critical planning session for international and U.S .disarmament movement leaders on May 5, following the Abolition 2000 meeting. The meeting will draw on the best ideas brought to New York and developed during the PrepCom and to concretize international NGO planning for the NPT Review.

              As Gensuikyo has long understood, and we saw in Nayarit, Hibakusha testimonies and scientific studies about the cataclysmic consequences of nuclear detonations, which include nuclear winter, are the most effective means of transforming public opinion and moving governments.

The nuclear powers understand this, which explains why most of them have boycotted the Human Consequences conferences and the recent statement by U.S., French and British nuclearists who fear that the focus on human consequences will lead people and governments will challenge the nuclear “bedrock” of the NATO alliance. They wrote “We are specifically concerned about the long-term implications of the conference on Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons…the underlying agenda…is to delegitimize nuclear weapons as contrary to international humanitarian law.”[iii]

This is one more reason why, as in 2010, we should make the most of the Hibakusha and Japanese activists who come to the U.S. for the NPT Review. In addition to events in New York, speaking engagements and public forums in communities across the U.S. before and after the Review can help movement building for the longer term.

In Mexico, one could feel people’s and some government’s frustration with the NPT process. But, as Angela Kane stressed in Mexico, the reality is that we cannot achieve nuclear weapons abolition without the nuclear powers negotiating and then implementing the elimination.  Even with its faults, the NPT remains central. And we cannot move the nuclear powers without the people’s power from below.

Unfortunately, too few people in the U.S. think about nuclear weapons. To engage our people, we need to address their daily concerns. Given unemployment, and the economic insecurity that millions of U.S. Americans are suffering, economic stress is central to their concerns. In response, the U.S. peace movement’s primary focus has been campaigning to Move the Money, to cut Pentagon spending – including for nuclear weapons – and to redirect that money to fund essential social services, job creation, and infrastructure development. A successful U.S. NPT mobilization requires making these connections.

As we develop our plans, let me also suggest that we explore how best to engage with the Non Aligned nations who have played leading roles in the U.N. and elsewhere c to create a nuclear weapons free world. This should include making the most of the September 26 International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, adopted at their behest by the U.N. General Assembly, and demanding progress toward a Middle East Nuclear Weapons and WMD-Free Zone. The U.S. refusal to co-convene that conference promised in the 2010 NPT Action plan places the NPT itself in jeopardy.

Four years ago, our march to the U.N. from Times Square was an exclamation point demonstrating the spirit and commitments of the world’s nuclear abolitionists. Together with the awe inspiring seven million Gensuikyo petition signatures and the extended standing ovation we gave to Ban Ki-Moon the day before, we encouraged and strengthened the will of those demanding negotiation of a nuclear weapons convention in the halls of state power.  We need to do this again.

              Finally, with the political developments and military tensions here in East Asia, with the growing dangers of nuclear weapons modernization and proliferation, and with the openings that we have created, in the coming year we need to do all that we can to ensure that the 2015 Review leads to the negotiation of that nuclear weapons abolition convention. Together, we can prevail.


[i] David Alexander. “U .S. needs modern nuclear deterrent despite high price tag –Hagel” , Reuters, January 9, 2014.

[ii] “Reality Sets In”, New York Times editorial, Nov. 10, 2013

[iii] Center for Strategic & International Studies. “CSIS European Trilateral Nuclear Dialogue: 2013 Consensus Statement.” 24 January, 2014,