Legacy of war in Asia

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui will warn of ‘new cold war’ on 73rd anniversary of nuclear attack

China has confirmed it will not be sending its ambassador and there has been no word from the US on whether its representative will pay respects

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 August, 2018, 5:17pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 August, 2018, 9:34pm

The mayor of Hiroshima is to use his address marking the anniversary of the first use of an atomic weapon to warn of a new cold war taking hold in the Asia-Pacific.

Mayor Kazumi Matsui will deliver the annual Peace Declaration in the city’s Peace Memorial Park on Monday, the 73rd anniversary of a nuclear bomb being dropped on Hiroshima. An outline of the declaration showed Matsui will warn a growing tendency around the world to prioritise national interests above all else. This has caused an upsurge in tensions reminiscent of the darkest days of the cold war, he will argue.

The mayor will also urge the Japanese government to become more involved in efforts by the international community to abolish nuclear weapons through dialogue and cooperation. In addition, Matsui will state that while there has been progress on eliminating North Korea’s atomic arsenal, the world must work to ease tensions on the peninsula and the region.

The mayor’s message this year will be heard by representatives of 87 nations, including nuclear powers Britain, France and Russia – although, significantly, China has confirmed it will not be sending its ambassador and there has been no word from the US on whether its representative will pay respects. Equally, North Korea has not confirmed whether it will send a representative.

“I feel that the mayor of Hiroshima does have the moral authority to speak in relation to war, in particular in this time of nuclear uncertainty, and I would say that we are already in a cold war situation in the region, with the US and Japan on one side and China and North Korea on the other,” said Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies at the Tokyo campus of Temple University.

“Tensions have been heating up in the South China Sea and between the US and its allies towards North Korea and I think that a lot of people are concerned, such as the mayor, are concerned at the increasingly provocative stance that [US President] Trump is taking towards regional relations. At this point in time, Hiroshima is a tale worth telling once again.”

We are already in a cold war situation ... with the US and Japan on one side and China and North Korea on the other
Jeff Kingston, Temple University

Hiroshima and Nagasaki – which was bombed on August 9, 1945, three days after Hiroshima – have long been vocal opponents of nuclear weapons and have this year intensified efforts to achieve the global abolition of atomic arsenals.

In May, Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue visited the Vatican City to present a letter on behalf of both cities to Pope Francis, inviting him to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The open letter said a visit by the pope would send a powerful message to the global community at a time when there are rising fears of nuclear war. The pope replied that he would very much like to visit the two cities.

Antonio Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, this year accepted an invitation to attend Nagasaki’s commemorative event, the first time a sitting UN head will take part in the event. Guterres is due to meet victims of the attacks and the mayor of Nagasaki “to discuss ideas on how to promote nuclear disarmament”.

“Nagasaki always seems to me to be a bit neglected when the anniversaries come around because Hiroshima was the first to be attacked, so it is important and significant that the UN secretary general is visiting this year,” Kingston said.

“It’s important that world leaders show their solidarity with hibakusha and for those who promote denuclearisation and this is a chance to inveigh against the insanity of mutually assured destruction and nuclear proliferation.”