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Atomic bomb survivors voice anger over breakdown of NPT meeting

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Delegates at the review meeting for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty listen to a Russian envoy at U.N. headquarters in New York on Friday.

Hibakusha survivors of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki have expressed their anger about the breakdown of a meeting to review the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as a result of Russia’s opposition.

The meeting was held to discuss how to pursue nuclear disarmament, but broke down amid the rising threat from nuclear weapons posed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Members of the hibakusha community also voiced their discontent with the current NPT framework.

“I feel nothing but anger toward not only Russia but also countries that have nuclear weapons,” said Jiro Hamasumi, 76. “We have to convey more strongly than before how inhumane nuclear weapons are.”

Hamasumi is a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and now lives in Inagi, Tokyo. He went to the United States in tandem with the NPT meeting and spoke to young people there about his hope for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

The phrase “no first use of nuclear weapons” was deleted from the NPT meeting’s final document, as were phrases specifically naming Russia in relation to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the south of Ukraine, which Russian forces have occupied. However, Russia continued to oppose the document.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Masao Tomonaga voices his disappointment about the breakdown of the NPT meeting in Nagasaki City on Saturday.

Masao Tomonaga, honorary director of Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Genbaku Hospital and a resident of Nagasaki, said: “It would be meaningless to adopt a document with such concessions. [The breakdown] might have actually been good for the future.”

Tomonaga, 79, is a survivor of the Nagasaki bombing. “The limits were clearly shown” of the NPT framework, in which decisions need to be in principle unanimous, Tomonaga said.

Masako Wada, deputy chief of the secretariat of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, spoke at the NPT meeting as a survivor of the Nagasaki atomic bombing. She voiced the slogan, “No more hibakusha.”

“So the voices of hibakusha have not been heard. I’m angry about the insincere attitude of the nuclear powers,” said Wada, who is now 78 and lives in Yokohama.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attended the meeting, the first Japanese prime minister to do so, urging the world, to “We must ensure that Nagasaki remains the last place to suffer an atomic bombing.” Kishida was elected to the Diet from Hiroshima.

Kunihiko Sakuma, chairperson of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-Bomb Sufferers’ Organizations who lives in Hiroshima, voiced his disappointment: “Japan could not fulfill its role as the only country that has suffered atomic bombings in war. ”

The breakdown of the meeting has shaken trust in the NPT framework and, as a result, the path to nuclear disarmament has become increasingly unclear.

Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue issued a statement: “As residents of Nagasaki City, which suffered an atomic bombing, we feel deep disappointment and strong anger. This outcome will significantly damage trust in the NPT framework itself.”

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui also issued a statement: “This has dashed the hopes of hibakusha who seek the abolition of nuclear weapons, and is extremely regrettable. It turns its back on human beings’ determination to realize a peaceful world without nuclear weapons and I fear that it may cause a truly dangerous situation.”