- The Washington Times - Friday, November 11, 2011

The governor of Hiroshima has a message for the leaders of Iran: “Having nuclear weapons is not going to solve your problems.”

But Hiroshima Gov. Hidehiko Yuzaki also says the West needs to address the “root causes” of Iran’s nuclear quest, which he called “very concerning.”

“We need to create the conditions where Iran feels it’s easier to stop stop their efforts,” Mr. Yuzaki told The Washington Times.

On North Korea, whose nuclear weapons have been the focus of international troubleshooting, Mr. Yuzaki said world leaders have no choice but to engage in “patient negotiations.”

The 46-year-old former entrepreneur governs the Japanese province whose capital city was decimated when the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb near the end of World War II.

Today, nuclear disarmament is the centerpiece of Mr. Yuzaki’s “Hiroshima for Global Peace” initiative, which brings people from conflict-ridden countries like Afghanistan to Hiroshima to learn conflict resolution. Hiroshima’s scarred history uniquely positions it to lead such an effort, he says.

“Hirsohima is known as a place of tragedy, but when you come to Hirsohima, many people are astonished at the beauty and prosperity of the modern Hiroshima city, which recovered really from ashes,” he said, adding that visitors from conflict zones have been inspired to replicate Hiroshima’s example at home.

The U.S. dropped an atomic bomb over the center of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, three days before it detonated a second over Nagasaki. The blasts killed more than 200,000 Japanese, and the residents of both cities suffered decades of radiation-related illnesses.

Mr. Yuzaki said he rejects the argument that the bombs prevented a bloodier ground invasion.

“I don’t understand it because other historical facts show that the Japanese government would have surrendered anyways,” he said. “I don’t think the lives of many more American soldiers would have been lost if they hadn’t dropped the bombs.”

Since March, his country has been dealing with the aftermath of a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor meltdown that then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan called the “biggest crisis for Japan since World War II.”

About 22,000 Japanese have been listed as dead or missing since the disasters, and recovery-and-reconstruction efforts continue.

“It’s slow, and we are very much frustrated,” Mr. Yuzaki said, adding that local governments “feel direct voices from citizens who want to help” but cannot due to bureacracy.

The tsunami, which precipitated a meltdown at the Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant, sparked a worldwide debate about the safety of nuclear power. Germany responded to the disaster by announcing it will end its use of nuclear energy by 2022.

Mr. Yuzaki said it is not feasible for Japan, which derives some 30 percent of its electricity needs from 54 nuclear reactors, to follow Germany’s lead in the short term.

“The Japanese economy would be badly hurt, and Japanese people would have to endure a very low-energy life like a lot of people experienced last summer,” he said. “But longer term, you don’t know.”

Saying the nuclear-free route should remain “on the table,” Mr. Yuzaki urged his federal government to “open that discussion to the public.”

A recent Associated Press-Gfk poll found that 55 percent of Japanese adults want to reduce the number of Japanese reactors while 35 percent are satisfied with the current number.



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