It is a pleasure to be with you in this 50th anniversary year of the Ozaki Foundation. I am an admirer of this Foundation and of the life and work of Ozaki Yukio. He was a man of principle and of the people and, as such, a man of peace.

In the latter part of his life, Ozaki Yukio wrote, “The only reason for my persevering at my advanced age was that I might live…so as to contribute what I could to the creation of a new world.” He envisioned contributing toward a world at peace, a noble vision. “I dreamed I would find a way,” he wrote, “for the peoples of the five continents to live in peace.”

Ozaki was an early proponent of the principle of the “Common Heritage of Mankind,” one of the most important concepts of the modern era. He wrote, “The world’s land and resources should be used for the benefit of all mankind…. The greatest obstacle to attaining this global perspective is the narrow-minded ambition of nations that seek to prevail over others by the exercise of wealth and power.”

I think that Ozaki Yukio would have agreed with Lao Tzu, who said: “Those who would take over the Earth and shape it to their will never, I notice, succeed.” In other words, imperialism is a recipe for disaster. Every empire that has ever existed has experienced at some point the pain, suffering and humiliation of defeat. This was true in the ancient world and throughout history. It was true in the 20th century, and there is no doubt that it will prove to be true in the 21st century. But today, in the Nuclear Age, the stakes are higher; the future of civilization and even human survival hang in the balance.

For the past 25 years I have been the president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, an organization that I helped to found in 1982. The Foundation has three principal goals: to abolish nuclear weapons; to strengthen international law, particularly as it pertains to the prevention of war and the elimination of nuclear arms; and to empower a new generation of peace leaders to carry on the struggle for a more peaceful world, free of the overriding nuclear weapons threat to humanity.

One of the key formative events in my own life, placing me on the path to work for peace and a nuclear weapons-free world, was an early visit at the age of 21 to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Peace Memorial Museums. At these museums, I learned a lesson that was not part of my education in the United States. In the US, we were taught the perspective of those above the bombs. It was a story of scientific and technological triumph, a story of victors with little reference to loss of life and the suffering of the victims. At the Peace Memorial Museums in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was a human story, a tragedy of massive death and destruction. It was a story told from the perspective of those beneath the bombs, and a warning about our common future: we must eliminate these weapons before they eliminate us.

Nuclear Weapons and the Imperative of Peace

There are many reasons to oppose nuclear weapons. They are long-distance killing devices, instruments of annihilation that kill indiscriminately – men, women and children; the aged and the newly born; soldiers and civilians. Because they kill indiscriminately, their threat or use is both immoral and illegal. They are weapons that can destroy cities, countries and civilization. They threaten all that is human, all that is sacred, all that exists. If this were not enough, these weapons make cowards of their possessors and, because they concentrate power in the hands of the few, are anti-democratic.

The creation of nuclear weapons has changed the world. It has made peace an imperative – an imperative brought about by the massive destructive potential of nuclear weapons. This imperative has been recognized by insightful individuals from the onset of the Nuclear Age.

Almost immediately after learning of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the great writer and philosopher Albert Camus wrote, “Before the terrifying prospects now available to humanity, we see even more clearly that peace is the only battle worth waging.”

More than fifty years ago, Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell and nine other prominent scientists issued the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, in which they stated: “Here, then, is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war? People will not face this alternative because it is so difficult to abolish war.” But Russell and Einstein were right. We must face this alternative, difficult as it is.

No nation knows the painful truth about the devastation of nuclear weapons better than Japan, the only country to have suffered such devastation. Those who survived the atomic bombings, the hibakusha, are the ambassadors of the Nuclear Age. Their voices are fading as they grow older and die, but listening to their wisdom may be our best hope for ridding the world of these terrible instruments of death and destruction.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Cenotaph states, “Let all souls here rest in peace; for we shall not repeat the evil.” This thought was echoed in the statement of the then President of the International Court of Justice, Mohammed Bedjaoui, when he referred to nuclear weapons as “the ultimate evil” in his 1996 Declaration that accompanied the Advisory Opinion of the Court on the illegality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons.

In the end, nuclear weapons are weapons of the weak. They are a great equalizer, capable of giving a small state or a terrorist group the ability to destroy our cities and even bring a great nation to its knees. For the sake of civilization and humanity, these weapons and those who support continued reliance upon them must not be tolerated. To tolerate these weapons is to assure that eventually they will be used – by accident or design.

Deterrence is not defense, and can fail due to miscommunication. It has come close to failing on numerous occasions, many much less well known than the Cuban Missile Crisis. Today, even though there is little to no need for deterrence among the major powers, there are still 26,000 nuclear weapons in the arsenals of nine countries, and 3,500 of these in the arsenals of the US and Russia remain on hair-trigger alert, ready to be fired within moments of an order to do so.

I am certain that were Ozaki Yukio alive today, he would be a leader in the global effort to abolish nuclear weapons and would be active in the Mayors for Peace, an organization of mayors throughout the world led by Mayor Akiba of Hiroshima. The Mayors for Peace currently has a 2020 Vision Campaign to ban nuclear weapons by the year 2020. It is a campaign that makes sense for mayors, given that cities remain the major targets of these weapons. One World
We live on a single precious planet, the only one we know of in the universe that supports life. No matter where lines are drawn on the Earth as boundaries of states, we are a part of one planet and one people. We must unite in protecting the planet and preserving it for future generations.

In addition to the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation, we live in a world that is threatened by global warming, what Al Gore, the 2007 Nobel Peace Laureate, described as “an inconvenient truth.” But if global warming is an inconvenient truth, how much more so is nuclear war. In both cases, the present and future are jeopardized by massive devastation.

War and structural violence – that is, violence that is built into the societal framework – are prevalent in our world. Each year, war claims countless victims, mostly innocent civilians. It is widely reported that more than 90 percent of the victims of wars today are civilians. In the Iraq war, some 4,000 American soldiers have died, but the number of Iraqis killed, mostly civilians, is reported to be over 1.2 million. That is a ratio of 1 to 300. It is more aptly characterized as a slaughter than a war. In Darfur, genocide has continued unabated for years, with the international community seemingly helpless to stop the killing.

The structural violence in our world, like war, is a deep stain on the human record. Half the world’s people still live on less than two dollars a day, while the world spends some $1.2 trillion on arms. Of this, the United States spends nearly half, more than the combined totals of the next 32 countries.

For just a small percentage of global military spending, every child on the planet could receive an education. For a similarly small percentage of military spending, everyone on the planet could have clean water, adequate nutrition and health care. Something is terribly wrong with our ability to organize ourselves to live justly on our planet.

Our world is one in which human life is devalued for many, and greed is often rewarded. It is a world often not kind to children. Each hour, 500 children die in Africa; 12,000 each day. They die of starvation and preventable diseases, not because there is not enough food or medicine, but because these are not distributed to those who need them. Our world is also not very wise in preparing for the future. We are busy using up the world’s resources, particularly its fossil fuels, and in the process polluting the environment. So hungry and greedy are we for energy and other resources that we pay little attention to the needs and well-being of future generations. Our lifestyles in the richer countries are unsustainable, and they are foreclosing opportunities for future generations that will be burdened by diminishing resources and a deteriorating environment.

We live in an interdependent world. Borders cannot make us safe. Nor can oceans. We can choose to live together in peace, or to perish together in nuclear war. We can choose to live together with sustainable lifestyles or to perish together as our technologies destroy our environment. We can choose to live together in a world with justice and dignity for all, or to perish together in a world of vast disparity, in which a small minority lives in luxury and overabundance, while the majority of humanity lives in deep poverty and often despair.

War No Longer Makes Sense

War no longer makes sense in the Nuclear Age. The stakes are too high. In a world with nuclear weapons, we roll the dice on the human future each time we engage in war. Nuclear weapons must be eliminated and the materials to make them placed under strict international control so that we don’t bring life on our planet to an abrupt end.

Leaders who take their nations to war without the sanction of international law must be held to account. This is what the Allied leaders concluded after World War II, when they held the Axis leaders to account for crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. No leader anywhere on the planet should be allowed to stand above international law.

Every citizen of Earth has rights, well articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights agreements. We should all know our rights under international law, which include the rights to life, liberty, security of person, and freedom from torture. There is also a human right to peace. We must take responsibility for assuring these rights for ourselves and others across the planet.

If someone were to observe our planet from outer space, that person might conclude that we do not appreciate the beauty and bounty of our magnificent Earth. I hope you will never take for granted this life-sustaining planet. The planet itself is a miracle, as is each of us. As miracles, how can we engage in wars, or allow our children to engage in wars, that kill other miracles?

Japan’s Unique Capacity

Japan is a country uniquely qualified to lead the world toward peace and a world free of nuclear weapons. Japan has great strengths, it has made great mistakes, and it has seemingly learned important lessons.

Japan is a country with a long history and deep traditions. It is a country with an extraordinary aesthetic, which can be seen in its gardens, its architecture, its arts of tea ceremony, flower arrangement and pottery, its literature and film.

But along with the subtle imperfect beauty of its aesthetic, Japan has had a history of feudal hierarchy and militarism. It has been an imperial power, colonizing other nations and committing serious crimes against them. It has fought in brutal wars, suffered defeat at the hands of the Allied powers in World War II, and emerged as a stronger, more peaceful and decent nation.

One of the most remarkable things about Japan as a nation has been its unique ability to transform itself, first with the Meiji Restoration in the 19th century, then with its growth into a modern economic and military power, and finally with its astounding rebound from its military defeat in the second half of the 20th century.

Japan turned the ashes of war and defeat into an energetic and vital economy and democratic political structure. It is the only country in the world with a “peace constitution.” Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution forbids war forever as an instrument of state power. It states:

Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

This is an extraordinary commitment. It is a beacon to the world, and should be viewed with pride by all Japanese citizens. Despite the attempts of some Japanese political leaders to reinterpret and evade the essential provisions of Article 9, it has thus far held up.

Japan is the only country in the world to have had two of its cities destroyed by atomic weapons. Its people learned that human beings and atomic weapons cannot co-exist, and as a result the survivors of the atomic bombings, the hibakusha, have been ardent advocates of a nuclear weapons-free world, not wanting others to suffer the fate that they suffered. In 1971, the Japanese Diet adopted three non-nuclear principles: “Japan shall neither possess nor manufacture nuclear weapons, nor shall it permit their introduction into Japanese territory.”

In recent years, the Japanese government has provided some leadership at the United Nations by sponsoring a resolution on “Renewed determination towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons,” but this seems to be more rooted in words on paper than in action. More is needed.

Post-War Uneasiness

Despite its success in rebuilding its economy in the post-World War II period, its unique peace constitution and its position in relation to nuclear weapons, one senses uneasiness in the current state of Japan. Tradition is under assault in modern Japan. The people, and particularly the youth, seem pulled toward Western values of materialism with their emphasis on consumer lifestyles.

There are periodic challenges to the peace constitution and to Japan’s non-nuclear principles. These values seem to remain in conflict with Japan’s longer and deeper connections to hierarchical authority and military might. Japan seems a reluctant leader toward a nuclear weapons-free world. It has the technology and enough plutonium to rapidly become a major nuclear weapons power. Despite its constitutional limitations, Japan has developed a powerful Self-Defense Force, and is among the top few military spenders in the world.

Japan has maintained a close relationship with the United States, and the US continues to ask more of Japan in its participation in multilateral military operations. Japan participated in a small non-combat role in the “Coalition of the Willing” in the war in Iraq, although the Japanese government is ambiguous about this participation. The US has pushed Japan to join it in the development and implementation of missile defenses in Northeast Asia. Japan also allows the US armed forces to occupy many military bases in Japan and to use Japanese ports for its Navy. Japan sits willingly under the US nuclear umbrella.

Thoughtful Japanese citizens might well ask: Who are we? Is Japan following its own destiny? Has Japan become a vassal state of the US? Should Japan preserve Article 9 of its Constitution? Can Japan preserve Article 9 of its Constitution? There is clearly tension in Japan’s aspirations for itself and in its alliance with the US, the country that ended the war against Japan with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Japan has prospered in peace. Now it must decide whether it chooses to lead in peace, or to be a vassal to the United States, as that country – my country – seeks to spread its imperial might throughout the globe. The world stands perilously balanced at the nuclear precipice, and Japan, as the only country in the world that has experienced nuclear devastation, could be the country to lead the way back from the precipice.

One may well ask: If Japan leads, who would follow? There is no way to answer this question until the first steps are taken. At a minimum, in attempting to provide this leadership, Japan would honor the survivors and the dead of those bombings. It would instill in its behavior a sense of national purpose – that of ending the nuclear weapons threat to humanity.

Rather than accept the militant leadership of the United States, Japan needs to provide the moral leadership of which it is uniquely capable. For its own independence and the good of the world, Japan must be firm in its commitment to its peace constitution and to its non-nuclear principles.

As a good friend of the United States, Japan could help lead it toward ending its reliance on nuclear weapons and fulfilling its responsibilities under the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty. In the US we have a saying, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” The US has been driving drunk in its use of power in Iraq and its reliance upon nuclear weapons. Japan must be truly a friend and learn to say No to the United States:

No to reliance on nuclear arms, including by means of the US nuclear umbrella;

No to missile defenses;

No to US nuclear armed ships docking at Japanese ports (the Kobe Formula has provided a good example);

No to participation in any form in illegal wars of aggression, such as the Iraq War;

No to extending the leases on US military bases in Japan.

No to the US-India nuclear deal, which will undermine years of international efforts to control nuclear proliferation.

There is also much to which Japan can say Yes.

Yes to international cooperation for peace, not war.

Yes to convening a Nuclear Weapons Convention, and to sustained leadership for a nuclear weapons-free world. The first meeting of states to rid the world of nuclear weapons could be held in Hiroshima, the first city to suffer nuclear devastation.

Yes to the establishment of a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone in Northeast Asia.

Yes to bringing all weapons-grade fissionable materials under strict international control.

Yes to an insistence on resolving conflicts between states by peaceful means, including mandatory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

Yes to giving its full support to the International Criminal Court to hold leaders accountable for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Yes to working to protect the oceans, the air, the Arctic and Antarctica, and outer space as the Common Heritage of Mankind for present and future generations. If Japan chooses to follow this path, it will honor its finest traditions and, drawing from its unique experiences in recent history, give leadership to forces all over the world struggling for peace.

Individual Responsibility

Nothing changes without individuals taking responsibility and taking action. We all need to realize that with rights come responsibilities. Change does not occur magically. It occurs because individuals engage with societal problems and take actions to create a better world. Often change occurs person to person. Each of us can be an agent for change in the world. We are each as powerful as we choose to be.

We can each start by choosing peace and making a firm commitment to peace with justice. This means that we make peace a central issue and priority in our lives and demonstrate peace in all we do. We can live peace, educate for peace, speak out for peace, and support and vote for candidates who call for peace. In choosing peace, we also choose hope, rather than ignorance, complacency or despair. Hope gives rise to action, and action in turn gives rise to increased possibility for change and to further hope. It is a spiral in which action deepens commitment, which leads to more action.

Like others who have chosen the path of peace – Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the Dalai Lama – we must realize that it will not be a quick or easy journey. The path will require of you courage, compassion and commitment. The rewards may be few, except your own understanding of the necessity of the journey.

The path to peace will require persistence. You may be tempted to leave the path, but what you do for peace you do for humanity. In the struggle for a better world and a more decent future, we are not allowed to give up – just as Ozaki Yukio never gave up during his life and as his daughter, Sohma Yukika, has never given up during her long life.

Our efforts to create a culture of peace are a gift to humanity and the future. What better gift could we give to our fellow citizens of the planet and to future generations than our courage, compassion and commitment in the cause of peace?

David Krieger is the President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation ( He is a leader in the global effort to abolish nuclear weapons.