When Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered his country’s nuclear forces to be put on standby in February, he prompted fears the world was closer to nuclear war than it had been in decades. Amid this heightened state of tensions, a group of Japanese students held an online event to discuss the urgent need for the world to move toward nuclear abolition.
Atomic bomb survivor Tomonaga Masao started off the event by expressing his concerns about the Russian invasion. He said it was important for young people to speak out for peace.
Tomonaga said, “We are closer to a situation where nuclear weapons are used than ever before.” And he added, “I hope we have a constructive conversation that shows world leaders why this can never be allowed to happen.”
Around 30 students from high schools and universities across Japan took part in the event, which was a mock conference of the parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Each student was given the role of a state delegate or NGO representative.
One participant said, “It’s time for us to think about what nuclear weapons are, and what kind of world we want to live in. We must make practical proposals for our generation to solve this problem.”
The discussion lasted for 7 hours. Many students expressed their belief that the use of nuclear weapons would bring about unimaginable horror and must be avoided at all costs.
But one student representing China offered a contrasting view. She said the current geopolitical situation made nuclear deterrence necessary.
She said, “China has nuclear weapons for self-defense. The security situation around our country has been getting worse every year. We will not abolish nuclear weapons under the current international community, which pushes its values and political systems on other countries.”
At the end of the event, student Takagaki Keita presented a final statement urging nuclear-armed countries to never use their weapons and to work toward abolition.
Takagaki said, “I can’t imagine what atomic bomb survivors and activists are feeling right now. But I am very sad and frustrated. We have to discuss the issue after learning about it properly, and not just criticize.”
The actual meeting of the parties will take place this June. The students said they hope their message will remind world leaders of their responsibility to protect humanity from nuclear disaster.