Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo on May 19 made public a letter he received from the U.S. government in response to his April 28 letter calling on U.S. President Obama to take the initiative for starting international negotiations to conclude a treaty abolishing nuclear weapons.

The following is the opening statement Shii made at the news conference.

I make public a letter from the U.S. government responding to my letter sent on April 28 to U.S. President Obama. In my letter, I called on him to take the initiative to eliminate nuclear weapons. The U.S. letter in response is signed by Assistant Secretary of State Glyn T. Davies on behalf of President Obama. We make available the original text of the letter with the translation we prepared. The signature by Mr. Davies is not shown on the copy of the letter from the U.S. for the purpose of protecting privacy.

In my letter to the U.S. President welcoming the president’s call for a ‘world without nuclear weapons’ in his Prague speech, I stated our views as to how best this call can be implemented effectively.

The U.S. letter of response appreciated the favorable impression I had of President Obama’s speech in Prague and our views conveyed to him regarding ‘how we can best achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.’ The letter expressed appreciation of our ‘passion for this issue’ and concluded by stating, ‘Thank you again for your thoughtful correspondence.’

This official response to my letter proves that President Obama is serious about, and has enthusiasm for, the elimination of nuclear weapons. I want to welcome this response.

In my letter, I requested that President Obama take action in order to (1) start international negotiations for the abolition of nuclear weapons and (2) have the nuclear-weapons countries promise at the next year’s NPT Review Conference to fulfill their commitment to the complete elimination of their nuclear arsenals. We hope to see President Obama take concrete action in response to these requests.

In this regard, we note the message President Obama sent on May 5 to the Preparatory Committee for the NPT Review Conference reiterating that the United States will ‘seek the peace and security of a world free of nuclear weapons’ while reaffirming the ‘United States’ commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’. This is a step forward that represents a welcome move away from the previous Bush administration’s denial of the nuclear-weapons countries’ ‘undertaking’.

The outcome regarding the issue of nuclear weapons will be heavily influenced by global public opinion. In preparation for the next NPT Review Conference in 2010, the 2008 World Conference against A & H Bombs launched an international signature campaign in support of the ‘Appeal for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World,’ which calls ‘on the nuclear weapons states and all other governments to agree to commence and conclude negotiations of a treaty, a nuclear weapons convention, to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons without delay.’ It is very important to increase the influence of this signature campaign, which is underway, along with many other grassroots movements, for the abolition of nuclear weapons in many countries, in particular Japan, the only atomic bombed country. The JCP will do its utmost to contribute to the development of the movement.