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Hibakusha 'heartbroken' over Japan's opposition to nuke ban treaty

Toshiki Fujimori (Mainichi)

NEW YORK -- Survivors of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki voiced strong anger over the Japanese government's decision to abstain from a United Nations conference to negotiate a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons.

Japan announced its abstention from the meeting at U.N. Headquarters in New York on March 27 local time, just as the conference got underway the same day. The government decision sent shockwaves through proponents of the proposed Nuclear Weapons Convention, including A-bomb survivors and citizens groups that had arrived in the city ahead of the meeting.

Meanwhile, participants in the conference sent warm applause to Toshiki Fujimori, 72, assistant secretary general of the Japan Confederation of Atomic and Hydrogen Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo), as he delivered a speech at the meeting on behalf of A-bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"Nobody, in any country, deserves seeing the same hell on earth again," Fujimori stated before the representatives of various countries gathered at the U.N. Headquarters.

At the outset of the meeting, Fujimori recounted his bombing experience and current thoughts, word by word, for about eight minutes. He was exposed to radiation about 2.3 kilometers from the hypocenter of the atomic bombing on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, when he was just one year and four months old. His sister, who was away for student mobilization, died in the bombing.

"Everybody thought I would die over time. Yet, I survived. It is a miracle. I am here at the U.N., asking for an abolition of nuclear weapons. I am convinced that this is a mission I am given as a survivor of the atomic-bomb," Fujimori said.

He pledged to continue the International Signature Campaign, which started in April last year at the initiative of Nihon Hidankyo and calls on all state governments to conclude a treaty to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons. "Government representatives who are present at this conference, international organizations, and representatives of civil society organizations are making efforts to conclude a legally binding instrument to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons," Fujimori said.

At the end of his speech, Fujimori addressed the audience, "Let us work together to achieve the nuclear ban treaty."

Upon hearing the speech, a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross said that they were very moved by Fujimori's testimony and that sharing the experiences of A-bomb survivors, or hibakusha, would be a driving force for countries and organizations to resolve the issue.

Fujimori told the assembled media following the speech, "I was glad to hear the applause from the audience in the venue. I felt that efforts toward nuclear weapons abolition will continue further if only there is such compassion for hibakusha's appeals."

While nuclear powers such as the United States boycotted the conference, Fujimori said, "Non-nuclear nations have made a great deal of efforts to deepen people's understanding about the humanitarian consequences of atomic weapons, and we have reached this far."

During his speech, Fujimori denounced the Japanese government's opposition to the proposed nuclear weapons ban treaty, saying, "As a hibakusha, and as a Japanese, I am here today heartbroken."

Back in Japan, Sakue Shimohira, 82, an adviser to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Bereaved Families Association, fumed, "It is Japan's responsibility to take the initiative in calling attention to the need to abolish nuclear weapons. Japan should persuade the United States -- which dropped the atomic bombs on Japan -- to join hands in leading the world (toward nuclear abolition)."

Toyokazu Ihara, 81, chairman of the Nagasaki-ken Hibakusha Techo Tomo no Kai (An association of holders of A-bomb survivors' certificates in Nagasaki Prefecture), said, "As long as Japan relies on nuclear weapons, it can never act as a bridge between nuclear powers and non-nuclear countries."

"What Japan needs to do is to present an effective way to ban nuclear weapons," he said.

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