Japan, as chair of the G7 for the year 2023, hosted its annual leaders' summit from May 19- 21. It was held in Hiroshima, one of only two cities ever to suffer through the atomic bombing. For that reason, nuclear disarmament was a big topic.
JAPAN Forward wanted to know the younger generation's thoughts on the topic. Six students from different countries were interviewed in this second of a three-part series. All six are studying at Akita International University in Akita Prefecture.
In this part, we asked the students, "What do you think of the nuclear dilemma that Japan faces?" Despite the spotlight given to nuclear disarmament at the G7 summit, all of the students held surprisingly pessimistic views on it.
The Very Core of The Nuclear Dilemma
Cam is from Vietnam. She raised an essential question that captures the core of the problem surrounding nuclear weapons. She says:
"It always comes back to, I don't believe in saying that war or the arms race is what brings actual peace. Yeah, it might bring security to the parties, but it is not the true nature of peace. But at the same time, though, is it necessary to achieve the true nature of peace? Or is it better to just not let conflicts happen?"
Defending Japan with Nuclear Umbrella is Important
Two interviewees had no doubt about protecting Japan with nuclear weapons. Alessandro from Italy, for example, thinks nuclear weapons protection is vital for Japan's security.
"It is important to defend and protect with nuclear weapons rather than being vulnerable to other countries. Japan's neighboring countries are China and Russia, both of which are strong and powerful. Besides, both countries have territory competition with Japan over the Senkaku Islands and Northern Territories. So it is understandable that Japan is protected by the United States nuclear umbrella."
Kiwamu, from Japan, also looks at the situation in the same light. "Japan's dependence on the US nuclear umbrella is inevitable," he said.
He looked back at history and added,
"Nuclear deterrence has maintained the international order since the end of WWII. For example, the Soviet Union had greater military power than the West during the Cold War. However, the West was still able to prevent the invasion of the Soviets because they had nuclear weapons. This example indicates that the nuclear security umbrella has been successful."
While Alessandro and Kiwamu stressed the importance of protecting Japan with nuclear weapons, some other interviewees took less supportive stances on nuclear security. They see nuclear security as less than optimum, yet as the only realistic way to protect Japan.
Nuclear Security and Frustration
Mathias, who is from Denmark, had contradictory feelings about nuclear weapons.
"I do not want nuclear weapons because it will escalate things more. If one country expands its military capability, other countries will do the same. At the same time, we have reached a point where we need to have those weapons to scare other countries. Even though nuclear weapons do not benefit anybody, they establish a nuclear safety net, which provides a huge deterrence against attacking each other."
Beyond ensuring security, Matthew, an American, also expressed his apprehension from the perspective of how to dispose of nuclear weapons.
"I do not support the use of nuclear weapons. I believe we should get rid of them. However, how do we get rid of them? We can't just throw them into the ocean or into space. You would have to deal with toxic nuclear waste and radioactive contamination lethal to the local environment.
"In that case, the best thing to do could be to store it. Where are you going to store it, how are you gonna finance that? How are you gonna ensure its security?
"There are so many factors that it's going to be impossible to actually disarm countries from using nuclear weapons. The absolute best we can hope for is to just stop nuclear weapon production."
The Necessary Elements for Nuclear Disarmament
Considering these factors, JAPAN Forward also asked, "If we really wanted to disarm nuclear weapons, what would be necessary?"
In response, Matthias explained his view that the war in Ukraine is the key factor.
"If we want to disarm nuclear weapons entirely, we need to end the war in Ukraine first."
He continued, emphasizing the importance of communication between nations.
"Also, China and the US somehow need to have a dialog because they have not had an official proper dialog for so long. It is dangerous because both sides may misunderstand each other. It's better to not shun China totally and they need to keep the door open to communicate with each other."
On this point, his perspective overlapped with the idea embodied by the statement of US President Joe Biden: "De-risking, not decoupling."
Kiwamu also highlights the importance of taking action toward inclusion.
"Diplomacy is built on mutual relationships. So it is very important to look at things from the other party's perspective, even if you don't like them or think they are dangerous".
Future of The Nuclear Dilemma
Finally, JAPAN Forward asked this question: "Do you think Japan will keep having a nuclear dilemma in the future?"
Both of the interviewees who answered this question had pessimistic views.
Matthew said, "Sadly, yes, and I think nuclear deterrence is important for Japan."
Alessandro thinks exterior factors do matter. "It will be impossible for Japan to get out of the nuclear dilemma unless the Chinese and Russian governments fall off and become more democratic," he expounded.
The series continues in part 3.
- Hiroshima Shows the Way for 'World Without Nuclear Weapons,' says PM Fumio Kishida in G7 Closing
- Japan Is in Dire Need of a Nuclear Strategy
- [All Politics is Global] China Had the Most New Nuclear Warheads Entering Its Arsenal in 2022
Author: Ikumi Mashiko
Ikumi Mashiko is a student reporter and intern at JAPAN Forward and a student at Akita International University in Akita Prefecture.