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An Eminent Buddhist Leader Urges Nuke Disarmament Summit

By Ramesh Jaura and Katsuhiro Asagiri

BERLIN | TOKYO (IDN) - Japanese Buddhist philosopher and peace builder Daisaku Ikeda has urged the U.S. and Russian leaders to come together for a summit meeting as soon as possible to pledge a global drift toward nuclear disarmament. The two countries together hold more than 90% of the world’s nuclear arsenal.

The advice by Ikeda, who is the President of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Buddhist association, is contained in his 35th annual peace proposal titled “The Global Solidarity of Youth: Ushering in a New Era of Hope” issued on January 26, 2017. [P35] JAPANESE TEXT VERSON PDF

It comes at a point in time when former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has warned: "it all looks as if the world is preparing for war". Writing in the Time, he says: "The world today is overwhelmed with problems. Policymakers seem to be confused and at a loss. But no problem is more urgent today than the militarization of politics and the new arms race. Stopping and reversing this ruinous race must be our top priority. The current situation is too dangerous."

He urges a meeting of UN Security Council "at the level of heads of state to adopt a resolution stating that nuclear war is unacceptable and must never be fought".

Ikeda's proposal also comes at a point in time when analysts are far from certain whether U.S. President Donald Trump would take to policies that reduce nuclear dangers or resort to actions resulting in a suicidal arms race.

Five days before Trump's inauguration on January 20 as 45th President of the United States, the Sunday Times reported that his aides had told British officials that Trump planned to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on his first foreign trip, possibly in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. The paper, citing unidentified sources, reported that Trump planned to begin working out a deal to limit nuclear weapons and that Moscow agreed to the meeting.

According to the newspaper, Trump sought to emulate former President Ronald Reagan’s meeting with the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986 that took place in the capital of Iceland. The two met in an effort to work on a major nuclear disarmament treaty at the height of the Cold War. However, Trump Administration’s incoming press secretary Sean Spicer denied the report, describing it in a Twitter message "100 percent false".

In his peace proposal, Ikeda recalls the call for the abolition of nuclear weapons issued by his mentor, second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda, 60 years ago in 1957. Toda sought to reveal the illusory nature of nuclear deterrence and forcefully stated that the use of nuclear weapons can never be justified.

Ikeda welcomes the adoption of a UN General Assembly resolution on December 23. The vote followed a decision on October 27 by the General Assembly’s First Committee – which deals with disarmament and international security matters – to begin work on the new treaty despite fervent opposition from some nuclear-armed nations.

The General Assembly has confirmed that beginning March 2017, it would hold a conference open to all member states, to negotiate a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. The conference to be held at UN headquarters in New York will be divided into two sessions: from March 27 to 31 and from June 15 to July 7.

Aware of the difficulty of convincing nuclear-weapon states to participate in these negotiations, Ikeda stresses that Japan, as the only country to have experienced nuclear bombings in war, has a moral responsibility to work to gain the participation of as many states as possible.

The SGI president stresses that the establishment of such a legal instrument would embody a global enterprise with the goal of preventing the horrors of nuclear war from ever being visited upon any country. He emphasizes that this initiative is fully congruent with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Its Article VI requires each state party to pursue good faith negotiations toward complete nuclear disarmament.

Ikeda is of the view that the actions of civil society during the negotiation process will help build momentum toward the treaty being a form of “people-driven international law.”

A profound significance of the SGI's 35th annual peace proposal is that it coincides with a report on January 26 that "for the first time in the 70-year history of the Doomsday Clock, the Bulletin of the Atomic ScientistsScience and Security Board has moved the hands of the iconic clock 30 seconds closer to midnight".

The decision to move the hands of the Doomsday Clock is made by the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in consultation with the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors, which includes 15 Nobel Laureates. 

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists adds: "In another first, the Board has decided to act, in part, based on the words of a single person: Donald Trump, the new President of the United States." 

The Science and Security Board’s full statement about the Clock points out that in January 2016, the Doomsday Clock’s minute hand did not change, remaining at three minutes before midnight. The Clock was changed in 2015 from five to three minutes to midnight, the closest it had been since the arms race of the 1980s.

The Board adds: “Over the course of 2016, the global security landscape darkened as the international community failed to come effectively to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats, nuclear weapons and climate change …

"This already-threatening world situation was the backdrop for a rise in strident nationalism worldwide in 2016, including in a U.S. presidential campaign during which the eventual victor, Donald Trump, made disturbing comments about the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons and expressed disbelief in the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change …

"The board’s decision to move the clock less than a full minute — something it has never before done — reflects a simple reality: As this statement is issued, Donald Trump has been the U.S. president only a matter of days …

This backdrop puts an additional spotlight on Ikeda's repeated call for establishing a global trend toward nuclear disarmament as a crucial step to prohibiting nuclear weapons and ushering in a world free of nuclear weapons.

In doing so, he is joining forces among others with the new United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who has pledged to "actively pursue the abolition of all weapons of mass destruction and the strict regulation of conventional weapons", arguing that disarmament can play an important role in ending existing conflicts and preventing the outbreak of new.

“I am committed to achieving a world free of nuclear weapons,” Guterres declared in a video message to the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, which opened the first segment of its three-part 2017 session on January 23. [IDN-InDepthNews – 27January 2017]

Photo: Demonstration in Lyon, France in the 1980s against nuclear weapons tests. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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