Stressing that Japan has a unique role to play in the area of nuclear disarmament, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on the nation’s young people to lead the way on efforts to rid the world of these deadly weapons.
“Become leaders for disarmament,” Mr. Ban told students at Waseda University in Tokyo. “The international community is looking to you for your leadership and for your vision.”
The Secretary-General is in the Japanese capital ahead of this week’s commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the August 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“The world needs you – Japan’s young people – to keep the memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki alive,” he stated, adding that he hopes the younger generation will carry the torch that their parents and grandparents have lit.
He urged Japanese young people to tell the stories of the survivors of the nuclear bombs, the hibakusha, stating that “their testimony is the most graphic argument against the nuclear threat.”
Mr. Ban highlighted the important role played by Japan in work of the UN, including in rebuilding Afghanistan, assisting Haiti following the devastating January earthquake and supporting the efforts of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
At the same time, he pointed out that it is in the area of nuclear disarmament that the country has a particular contribution to make given its experience during the Second World War.
“In all these areas, Japan is an irreplaceable partner of the United Nations. But in the area of nuclear disarmament, you have a special and unique role,” Mr. Ban stated.
“Some people argue that disarmament is too difficult … That it is an unrealistic goal … That it can never be achieved, at least in our lifetimes.
“I am here to say that is not true. Yes, it is difficult. But it is not impossible,” he stated.
In October 2008, the Secretary-General proposed a five-point plan on disarmament that includes recommendations on increasing security, on verification, on establishing a legal framework for nuclear disarmament, on transparency and on conventional weapons.
While there has been some progress since then, greater efforts are needed to advance on this critical issue, he said.
Mr. Ban reiterated this message during a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, in which he stressed the need for the international community to work harder to see a world free of nuclear weapons.
“It may seem to be a very big, ambitious agenda but this can be achieved, if there is a strong political will.
“I hope that my attendance in the Peace Memorial Ceremony on Friday in Hiroshima will send out a strong message to the world and give some opportunity of addressing the suffering and concerns of many hundreds of thousands of hibakusha whose dream is to see a world free of nuclear weapons during their lifetime,” he stated.
While in Tokyo, the Secretary-General also met with the Minister of Defence, Toshimi Kitazawa, and with a number of other senior Japanese officials, including the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President of the House of Councillors and other members of Parliament.
In addition, he met with the Chairman of the Japan Business Federation – or Keidanren – as well as with UN staff at a town hall meeting at UN University and with the university’s rector.