A head of US President Barack Obama’s historic visit Friday to Hiroshima, a group of more than 70 prominent scholars and activists have joined a growing chorus calling for the American leader to do more in the final months of his term to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
In a statement issued Monday, the group — which includes such luminaries as Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg and Herbert Bix — praised Obama for his plan to visit the atom-bombed city but urged him to follow through on his 2009 speech in Prague.
In that widely lauded address, Obama’s first major policy speech as President, he vowed to take concrete steps toward riding the globe of nuclear arms.
But while the Obama administration has seen some progress toward fulfilling this mission, the ultimate goal still remains far off, the group said.
“Despite the significant achievement of the Iran nuclear deal and successes in securing and reducing nuclear weapons-grade material globally, the President’s Prague agenda has been mostly stalled since the 2010 New START agreement with Russia, with no further nuclear weapons reductions,” it said in a separate press release.
According to the group, more than 15,000 nuclear weapons — 93 percent held by the US and Russia — still remain globally.
Obama should seize the opportunity presented with the Hiroshima visit to reignite momentum for a nuclear-free world, the group said, laying out a pathway for achieving the ambitious goal.
First, it said, Obama should meet with all hibakusha able to attend his Hiroshima visit, while also reconsidering his administration’s refusal to apologize or even discuss the contentious history surrounding the atomic bombings.
He could then roll back U.S. plans to spend $1 trillion on next-generation nuclear weapons and delivery systems, the group said. By going beyond the requirements of the New START treaty and announcing a unilateral reduction of the deployed U.S. atomic arsenal to 1,000 or fewer weapons, he could also help reinvigorate disarmament negotiations. Calling for “good faith negotiations” toward complete nuclear disarmament could also put pressure on Russia to join the fray, it said.
“This is an extraordinary moment,” said Peter Kuznick, one of the signatories to the statement and a professor at American University in Washington. “President Obama can either use it to further the cause of world peace and nuclear disarmament or he can use it as a cover for his militarization of the conflict with China and his trillion-dollar nuclear modernization program to make nuclear weapons more usable.
“Such an opportunity may never come again for him,” Kuznick added.