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Ex-Hiroshima Mayor Akiba hopes for assurance of no nuke use in letter to Trump

Former Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba is pictured at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. (Mainichi)

Former Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, who spent many years campaigning against nuclear weapons, has sent a letter to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump conveying his thoughts from the city that was hit by the first atomic bomb used in warfare on Aug. 6, 1945.

Born in 1942, Akiba could be described as an epitome of the postwar antinuclear movement. Seeing the film "Children of Hiroshima" ("Genbaku no ko") as an elementary school student served as a catalyst for Akiba's lifelong involvement with issues relating to Hiroshima and the atomic bomb.

When studying in the United States during his high school days, he learned that students there were taught "it was right to drop the atomic bomb" as a response to the Imperial Japanese Navy's attack on Pearl Harbor that sparked the war between Japan and the United States, and that they were told, "Remember Pearl Harbor." Even if he were to protest, he was greatly outnumbered. He decided he would tell people about Hiroshima, and while working for Tufts University, he started the "Akiba Project," dispatching local U.S. reporters to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After serving as a professor at Hiroshima Shudo University, Akiba served three terms in the House of Representatives, and then from 1999 to 2011 served three terms as mayor of Hiroshima. During his time as mayor he released in his own words Hiroshima's "Peace Declaration" on Aug. 6 every year. In 2009, he was impressed by U.S. President Barack Obama's call for a world without nuclear weapons, and the following year he visited the White House and directly asked the president to visit Hiroshima.

He held expectations for a positive effect from Obama's visit to Hiroshima in May last year, thinking, "U.S. society will change because of this. The world will certainly change to proceed on a path toward peace."

However, the moves toward peace, which seemed to have gained momentum with Obama's Hiroshima visit, now appear to have come up against a headwind and are losing speed. Obama's aim to declare a no-first-use policy for nuclear weapons in autumn last year collapsed due to resistance from Congress. Some 113 countries passed a United Nations resolution in December last year to begin negotiations in March on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons, but the nuclear powers of the United States, Britain, France and Russia voted against it, while China abstained. When it comes to eliminating nuclear weapons, the international environment remains tough.

Akiba wrote his letter with the thought that he doesn't want the hopes and dreams heightened by Obama's visit to Hiroshima to be destroyed.

Two copies of the letter were sent in mid-January, one to the White House and the other to the U.S. Embassy in Japan. It remains to be seen how Trump will receive the feelings of those in Hiroshima as the United States' new president.


Profile: Tadatoshi Akiba

Representative, Hiroshima Prefectural Congress against A- and H-Bombs

Convener, Hiroshima Committee of 1000 to Stop War

Head, Hiroshima Peace Office

Former Mayor, City of Hiroshima

Born in Tokyo in 1942. B.S. and M.S. in mathematics: University of Tokyo

Ph.D. in mathematics: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Represented Hiroshima as a national Diet member from 1990 to 1999. Elected Mayor of Hiroshima in 1999 and served three terms until 2011.

From 2011 through 2014, served as Chairman of the Middle Powers Initiative (MPI), President of AFS Japan and Professor by Special Appointment of Hiroshima University.

As President of Mayors for Peace, helped the organization grow from around 440 members to approximately 5,000 during his tenure.

Received such awards as the Ramon Magsaysay Award (also known as the Asian Nobel Prize, 2010), Otto Hahn Peace Medal in God from the United Nations Association of Germany, Berlin-Brandenburg (2013).

Publications include "Mayor of Hiroshima" (Asahi Shimbun, 2011) and "Reconciliation instead of Retaliation" (Iwanami Shoten, 2015).

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