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People in A-bombed cities, abductees' families angered by N. Korean nuclear test

The Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, left, and the Peace Statue in Nagasaki. (Mainichi)

Hibakusha, or atomic bombing survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, are furious about a North Korean nuclear test reported on Sept. 9. Meanwhile, the families of those who have been abducted by North Korea are worried that the latest nuclear test could affect the progress on the stalled abduction issue, as North Korea has continued to take provocative acts including test-firing of missiles.

    Toshiyuki Mimaki, 74, deputy leader of the Hiroshima branch of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, said, "The more sanctions the international community imposes on North Korea, the more its leader tends to act out extravagantly towards the world. What that country does runs counter to the trends of nuclear disarmament.

    "North Korean people have been forced to lead poor lives. If radioactive substances are released from the nuclear test site, it could cause damage," he added.

    Kunihiko Sakuma, 71, leader of another group of hibakusha in Hiroshima, said, "History has shown that use of military force can't solve problems. Japan should urge North Korea to settle any dispute through negotiations."

    Fellow hibakusha Shizuko Abe, 89, living in Hiroshima Prefecture, told the Mainichi Shimbun, "North Korean political leaders repeat such outrageous acts apparently because they haven't learned of the reality of damage caused by nuclear arms. These leaders resort to nuclear weapons to energize their people and defend their country. It's absurd," she said. "It's a shame. I thought the world trend on nuclear weapons would change after U.S. President Barack Obama's Hiroshima visit."

    Park Nam-joo, 83, a second-generation South Korean resident of Japan who was in Hiroshima when the A-bomb was dropped on the city on Aug. 6, 1945, deplored the latest nuclear test "stupid."

    "North Korea will further isolate itself from the international community. I'm sad about the latest move as someone belonging to the same ethnic group," she lamented.

    Sakue Shimohira, 81, an adviser to the Association of Bereaved Families of Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Victims, expressed anger at the news.

    "Nuclear bombs are weapons that could make human beings extinct. If North Korea has actually conducted a nuclear test, I'll be filled with anger. I don't understand what the country did it for. All countries must endeavor to eliminate nuclear weapons," Shimohira said. "We (atomic bombing survivors) should be the only people who have suffered from the attack."

    Koichi Kawano, 76, chairman of the Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs (Gensuikin), said, "Since North Korea has stubbornly repeated nuclear tests, Japan and other neighboring countries have no choice but to take a tough stance toward Pyongyang. I'm worried that such a negative chain of events may lead to a serious incident that could do real damage." He added, "Maybe Japan should change strategies of keeping a firm stance toward North Korea in cooperation with China and other countries."

    Sakie Yokota, 80, the mother of abductee Megumi Yokota who was 13 when she went missing, declared, "North Korea is a dreadful country whose way of thinking is completely different from ours. The country's situation is worse than when Kim Jong Il was in power. It has become more difficult to resolve the abduction issue. I'd like Japan to cooperate with the international community to respond decisively to the latest test."

    Teruaki Masumoto, 60, younger brother of abductee Rumiko Masumoto who went missing at the age of 24, played down the possible impact on Japan-North Korean talks on the abduction issue, saying, "Since Japan-North Korea negotiations on the abduction issue have been deadlocked, the latest nuclear test won't have much impact."

    At the same time, Masumoto urged the government to consider ways to contain North Korea. "It's obviously abnormal that the country has conducted nuclear tests and missile launches so frequently. Japan should strengthen its alliance with its neighbors to contain North Korea over its development of nuclear weapons and missiles," he said.

    Shigeo Iizuka, 78, elder brother of abductee Yaeko Taguchi, who went missing at age 22, told reporters in Kasukabe, Saitama Prefecture, "North Korea's nuclear tests pose a threat to Japan, and I'm angry. However, the issue of nuclear and missile development is different from the abduction issue. Under any circumstances, I want the government to prioritize efforts to resolve the abduction issue."

    Kazuhiro Araki, head of the Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea, pointed to the possibility that North Korea has launched missiles and conducted the latest nuclear test in a bid to divert people's attention from dire conditions at home, such as a massive flood in the country's northeast.

    At the same time, he said he assumes that North Korea may offer to resume the stalled talks on the abduction issues to turn the tide of the international situation.

    "It's difficult to maintain this tense situation in the face of the international community. Pyongyang may sound out Japan about the possibility of resuming the abduction issue talks. Japan may need to wait for such a development to make progress on the abduction issue," he said.

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