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20:34 11 May 2016

OPINION: In Hiroshima, Obama should chart course for nuclear weapons free world

By Daryl Kimball
WASHINGTON, May 11, Kyodo

President Barack Obama's May 27 visit to Hiroshima and its Peace Memorial Park provides an historic opportunity to refocus international attention on the continuing dangers and unacceptable humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons.

Obama's visit would not be complete without also hearing directly from some of the brave and eloquent "hibakusha" (atomic-bomb survivors) from Hiroshima and Nagasaki who have worked tirelessly to remind the world why nuclear weapons must never be used again.

Just as importantly, he should use his high profile visit to map out concrete actions that would move us closer to a world free of nuclear weapons.

Since he took office seven years ago, Obama has achieved significant progress to prevent terrorists from obtaining nuclear material; prevent a nuclear-armed Iran; and conclude a treaty to reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. But there is much more to be done.

While in Japan, Obama could reiterate his call to resume talks with Russia to further reduce their stockpiles, which number some 1,800 deployed nuclear weapons on each side -- if used in even a "limited" way, these weapons could kill millions.

He could announce that he will work with Japan to support for an initiative to reinforce the norm against nuclear testing at the U.N. Security Council that demands that all states refrain from testing and declares that a nuclear test explosion would defeat the object and purpose of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

The arsenals of the world's other nuclear-armed states are smaller, but just as dangerous. Obama could propose a new global nuclear restraint and disarmament dialogue. He should urge China, India and Pakistan to agree to freeze the overall size of their nuclear weapons stockpiles as long as the United States and Russia continue to reduce theirs.

Obama must also reiterate why North Korea must halt its nuclear and missile testing and rejoin denuclearization talks. He should make clear that if Pyongyang halts its tests, talks to address the nuclear issue and improve relations can begin. If not, further international sanctions will be imposed.

In this way, Obama's visit to Hiroshima could be the start of a new push for a world without nuclear weapons.

(Daryl G. Kimball is the director of the nongovernmental Arms Control Association in Washington; he has visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki twice, most recently in August 2015.)




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