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Hibakusha: Despite health issues, 90-year-old A-bomb survivor continues to raise voice

Sunao Tsuboi, chairman of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, has visited New York three times since 2000 for the United Nations' Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), but this year he could not make it due to his frail state. The 90-year-old atomic bombing survivor, however, says he won't stop raising his voice to convey the horrors of radiation as long as he is alive.

    Tsuboi was 20 years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. He was on a street 1.2 kilometers from the bomb's hypocenter. Having been diagnosed with bowel cancer and prostate cancer, and suffering aplastic anemia and angina pectoris, Tsuboi is never without sublingual tablets. He has also been in critical condition three times in his life after the bombing.

    Tsuboi turned 85 in New York in 2010 when he was there for the previous NPT Review Conference. He was saying at the time, "People age when they lose their ideals. I will always have mine with me."

    Tsuboi cannot walk without a cane ever since he hurt the hip joint after falling and breaking his right hand two years ago. For this year's NPT conference, he received requests to head to the United States again, but he judged he was no longer strong enough to travel. Instead, Tsuboi gave a pep talk to those who were flying to New York, telling them, "I wish I could fly (to the U.S.) if I had wings. There are so many of us who have got your back." He left the task of informing the world about the nuclear nightmare, the horror that radiation brings and the preciousness of life to his fellow A-bomb survivors.

    He went through so many episodes of discrimination against A-bomb survivors and suffered one disease after another.

    "There is no time limit to sufferings inflicted by the atomic bomb. It's been 70 years of endurance for me. I'll never forgive the bomb or war that ruined my life," Tsuboi said.

    Recently, he has been holding peace promotion events with high school and university students to pass down war stories to younger generations. In a periodical published by the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-Bomb Sufferers Organizations earlier this year, he wrote, "We can't give up. Let's pass down our thoughts and speak of them to anyone, anywhere. Let's write down war memories for ourselves," calling on A-bomb survivors to act.

    The month-long NPT Review Conference ended in disappointment with member states unable to reach a consensus agreement, highlighting deep divisions between nuclear powers and non-nuclear nations that emphasize the inhumanness of nuclear weapons.

    "The nuclear deterrence theory is ridiculous," Tsuboi says. "Even if I become confined to bed, as long as I can breathe and my heart beats I have to let out my voice. I want to tell humanity to wake up."

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