NAGASAKI (Kyodo) -- The leader of the antinuclear group International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which won last year's Nobel Peace Prize, on Saturday called on Japan to take part in the treaty banning nuclear weapons.
In a keynote speech at a symposium in Nagasaki, one of two atomic-bombed cities, ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn criticized the Japanese government for not joining the treaty banning nuclear weapons, adopted by 122 U.N. members in July.
"The Japanese government should know better than any other nation the consequences of nuclear weapons, yet Tokyo is happy to live under the umbrella of U.S. nuclear protection, and has not joined the treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons," Fihn said. "Is your government okay with repeating the evil that was done to Nagasaki and Hiroshima to other cities?"
Japan sat out the treaty negotiations, as did the world's nuclear-armed countries and others relying on the deterrence of the U.S. nuclear umbrella.
Japan remains the only country to have sustained wartime atomic bombings, over 72 years after the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and of Nagasaki three days later.
Fihn said as long as the Japanese government believes in the effect of deterrence from the U.S. nuclear umbrella, it means encouraging nuclear proliferation and along with other nations living under the protection of nuclear alliances, it is moving the world closer toward the eventual use of nuclear weapons.
"It is unacceptable to be a willing participant in this nuclear umbrella," she said.
The executive director of the international group campaigning for a total ban on nuclear weapons, meanwhile, applauded atomic bomb survivors, or hibakusha, for their efforts to speak out not to repeat the tragedy.
"The nuclear ban treaty would not exist without the hibakusha," she said.
At a panel discussion held after the speech, Nobuharu Imanishi, director of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Arms Control and Disarmament Division, said Japan is facing a "severe security environment" given North Korea's nuclear and missile development.
"Joining the treaty would damage the legitimacy of nuclear deterrence provided by the United States," he said.
In responding to his remarks, Fihn called on symposium visitors to put more pressure on politicians through grassroots activities to have them change the nuclear policy.
She has requested that the Japanese government set up a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during her stay in Japan.
Asked at a press conference about what she would like to tell the prime minister if she can meet him, Fihn said she wants to ask Abe to show leadership in the movement for nuclear disarmament as the leader of the only country to have been attacked with nuclear weapons.
Abe is currently on a six-nation European tour through Wednesday.