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Hiroshima peace activist vows to continue nuke ban campaign after UN treaty adoption

Haruko Moritaki, co-director of the Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, right, is seen at a rally to celebrate the adoption of the U.N. nuclear weapons ban treaty, in Hiroshima, on July 8, 2017. (Mainichi)

HIROSHIMA -- The daughter of a prominent peace activist celebrated the historic nuclear weapons ban treaty, which was adopted at a United Nations conference in New York on July 7, as even disarmament campaigners had long believed such a pact to be "unrealistic."

"We pledge to carry on in unison until nuclear weapons are eradicated from this world," said Haruko Moritaki, the 78-year-old co-director of the Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, as she read a joint statement from the group out loud during a rally in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima on July 8. As a peace advocate who has long called for an anti-nuclear weapons agreement, Moritaki saw the deal at the U.N. as a result of "hibakusha" (A-bomb survivors) and citizens working together to convince the world that nuclear weapons are inhumane, and that countries with good intentions accepted their claim.

Moritaki is the second daughter of late peace activist and hibakusha Ichiro Moritaki. She got involved in nuclear disarmament movement after she retired from teaching. After seeing the destruction caused by depleted uranium munitions used in the Iraq War firsthand, Moritaki felt keenly the true meaning of her father's words: "Human beings and nuclear technology cannot coexist."

In March 2010, Moritaki sent a letter emphasizing the need for a nuclear weapons ban treaty to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and received a reply agreeing with her claims. The ICRC's then president Jakob Kellenberger subsequently became the first committee head to appeal for the establishment of a ban, saying that nuclear weapons were a threat to human existence.

However, parties involved in anti-nuclear weapons activities responded coldly to this move. When Moritaki distributed flyers at the U.N. Review Conference for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, she was showered with harsh criticism by a British disarmament activist that she was putting the cause in a disadvantageous position by making unrealistic demands, and that her action was premature.

Nevertheless, Moritaki persisted, and continued participating in anti-nuclear weapons activities with international nongovernmental organizations.

What motivated the latest U.N. adoption was a series of Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons conferences first held in Norway in 2013, with participants from international NGOs and representatives from over 100 countries. The movement for the adoption of the ban treaty was gaining momentum, while the U.N. review conference was struggling to achieve results.

Moritaki was unable to join the latest conference in New York as her cancer had worsened, but says she was too excited to sleep on the night the treaty was adopted. She said she told her father, "We did it," in her heart.

"I have continued working (for the anti-nuclear weapons movement) while carrying on the hearts of A-bomb victims and those who have passed away before accomplishing their goals," said Moritaki. She is determined to continue calling for ratification of the treaty by non-signatory countries including Japan.

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