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Nagasaki A-bomb survivors let down as only Hiroshima draws G7 leaders' visit

Shigemitsu Tanaka, chairman of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council, talks about his thoughts in front of the Peace Statue in Nagasaki, where the G7 health ministers laid flowers earlier, on May 14, 2023. (Mainichi/Hiroyuki Takahashi)

NAGASAKI -- A-bomb survivors in this southwestern Japan city are disappointed as only Hiroshima has received visits by the leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations attending their ongoing summit.

    The G7 summit began in Hiroshima on May 19, and a plan for U.S. President Joe Biden to visit the second city his country attacked with a nuclear weapon was briefly considered but put on hold. Leaders of A-bomb survivors' organizations in Nagasaki voiced disappointment that the summit attendees will not have the opportunity to visit Nagasaki, especially with the heads of three nuclear powers -- the United States, Britain and France -- gathered in Japan.

    Shigemitsu Tanaka, 82, chairman of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council, watched the G7 leaders offer flowers to the Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims in Hiroshima on TV from his home in Nagasaki, and said, "It is significant that the G7 leaders all offered flowers together." The leaders also visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Tanaka added, "I want the joint declaration to include specific details that will lead to nuclear disarmament."

    On the other hand, Tanaka also felt let down. In Nagasaki, attendees at G7 health ministers' meeting on May 14 laid flowers in front of the city's Peace Statue. The international ministerial-level conference itself was the first of its kind to be held in Nagasaki, but there was no official opportunity for them to hear testimonies from local A-bomb survivors. Tanaka commented, "There's a gap with Hiroshima, and I even feel that they are forgetting Nagasaki."

    Chiyoko Iwanaga, 87, who heads a nationwide group of A-bomb survivors who are not officially recognized as "hibakusha" because they were exposed to the Nagasaki bombing outside the national government's relief zone. She commented, "It's a pity that the meeting of health ministers was chaired by the Japanese Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare, who is responsible for relief for A-bomb victims, but there is no evidence of any discussion about providing that relief. I hope that the leaders (attending the G7 summit) will face the reality of the damage, including internal exposure to radioactive substances and the genetic effects of A-bomb radiation, and that they will discuss the abolition of nuclear weapons."

    Iwanaga also revealed that she had sent a letter to the U.S. Embassy in Japan on May 19 addressed to President Biden, complaining that Nagasaki A-bomb survivors are being separated from official hibakusha and "black rain" fallout victims in Hiroshima, and discriminated against.

    Masao Tomonaga, 79, a doctor and chairman of the Nagasaki Prefecture Hibakusha Health Handbook Holders' Association, said, "Japan is the (G7 summit) chair, but it's under the U.S. nuclear umbrella and has not joined the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, so its proposals on nuclear disarmament aren't persuasive. With the breakdown of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons review conference last summer, we are paying attention to the role the G7 will play."

    (Japanese original by Hiroyuki Takahashi and Takehiro Higuchi, Nagasaki Bureau)

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