A-bomb Survivors Hope for Action from G7 Post-Summit

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Setsuko Thurlow speaks at a press conference on Sunday in Naka Ward, Hiroshima.

The Group of Seven summit drew to a close on Sunday, after world leaders expressed their determination to realize a nuclear-free world. Atomic bomb survivors have urged them to take concrete action and to not forget the wishes of the atomic bombed cities.

“In addition to the leaders of the G7 nations, the leaders of invited countries and the president of war-torn Ukraine also gathered in the atomic bombed city of Hiroshima and learned about the tragedy of the bombing. I think that alone was meaningful,” said Megumi Shinoda, 91, a Hiroshima resident who was exposed to the atomic bomb’s blast when she was 13 years old.

Shinoda has been working to share her experiences, speaking at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and elsewhere. Her sense of urgency grew when Russia invaded Ukraine in February of last year. Amid this crisis, she had high hopes for the summit, set to take place as it was in an atomic bombed city.

At her home on Friday, Shinoda watched on TV as the G7 leaders visited the Peace Memorial Park, observing the expressions of each leader and holding in her hand a piece of paper on which she had written their names.

“I hope that the leader of each country bears in mind the thoughts of the atomic bombed cities and works toward nuclear abolition,” Shinoda said after the summit.

Tamiyuki Okahara, 84, is another hibakusha, or a survivor who was in the area of the blast’s hypocenter within two weeks of the bomb being dropped. He was 6 years old at the time of the bombing.

“I think the leaders empathized with our suffering after touring the exhibits and seeing the reality of the atomic bomb damage,” he said.

The G7 leaders expressed in the museum’s guestbook their determination to prevent a recurrence of the tragedy.

“The fact that they left such positive words concerning nuclear abolition should help build momentum,” Okahara said. “From now on, the world must call for a nuclear-free world.”

On the other hand, there was criticism of the fact that the summit statement was premised on nuclear deterrence — where the threat of nuclear weapons is used to discourage an opponent from attacking — and that it stuck to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty framework.

Setsuko Thurlow, 91, an atomic bomb survivor living in Canada, said Sunday at a press conference in Hiroshima: “It was disappointing that they came all the way to Hiroshima only to write what little they did. I think the summit was a failure.”

Thurlow has related her experiences all over the world. In 2017, she became the first atomic bomb survivor to give a speech at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, speaking on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, whose activities she has supported.

“Looking at the content of the statement, there was no point in holding the summit in Hiroshima. I hope that discussions on nuclear abolition will continue after the summit,” Thurlow said.

Hidankyo dissatisfied

The Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hidankyo) on Sunday revealed its dissatisfaction with the progress of discussions on nuclear weapons abolition at the G7 summit.

The member nations presented a “Hiroshima Vision” as the first G7 leaders’ document with a particular focus on nuclear disarmament, but no concrete roadmap toward abolition was presented.

“The ‘vision’ runs counter to the wish of atomic bomb survivors that nuclear weapons be eliminated as quickly as possible,” said Hidankyo co-chair Terumi Tanaka, 91. “The nuclear states should have at least shown how they would strive to reduce their nuclear arsenals.”