Don’t expect President Donald J. Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un to be seated next to one another on the dais beside other world leaders at the ceremony calling for the abolition of all nuclear weapons held each year at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan on August 6.
Instead, both Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim will continue to ratchet up the rhetoric with bellicose speeches about using nuclear weapons against one another.
Mr. Trump has previously stated that he would “never, ever” rule out deploying nuclear weapons. And last month the official North Korean news agency declared the nation would not halt its effort to develop a nuclear arsenal, saying it was moving forward with a “plan for reducing the U.S. into ashes.”
So it is understandable why both leaders will not be present in Hiroshima to bow their heads and observe a moment of silence at 8:15 a.m. on August 6, the precise moment when, in 1945, an American B-29 bomber, the “Enola Gay,” dropped an atomic bomb that exploded 13,500 tons of TNT, incinerating the city and all those who lived within it.
“The knowledge of victory was charged with sorrow and doubt as with joy and gratitude,” American writer James Agee reflected in Time magazine in 1945. “More fearful responsibilities, more crucial liabilities rest on the victors even than on the vanquished.”
Agee’s prophetic words about the awful responsibility to prevent future conflagrations seem lost on both leaders. Yet their fear-engendering rhetoric does not dwarf what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 72 years ago, events that cry out with renewed urgency for discourse and disarmament today.
“Scientists and other nuclear-related experts exploring the damage from a postulated nuclear attack found once again that the only way to protect citizens from such an attack is the total abolition of nuclear weapons,” former Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba said.
“This is precisely why the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the International Court of Justice advisory opinion state clearly that all nations are obligated to engage in good-faith negotiations leading to complete nuclear disarmament.”
In issuing a call for disarmament, the Japanese in no way seek to erase their shameful role in igniting the inferno by their malicious bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, a cruel act of war that ended when the U.S. dropped atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki four years later. Those gathered at the Peace Memorial Park repeatedly express regrets for bombing Pearl Harbor. Along with regrets, however, they also issue a plea for peace. Their oft-repeated message: The Sin Must Not Be Repeated.
This year’s ceremony at Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park with its call for universal disarmament will briefly capture headlines. By the next day the heated rhetoric will return along our collective fear of annihilation.