Representatives of groups of atomic bomb survivors protest the Japanese government’s opposition to the U.N. resolution to convene negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear arsenals at a news conference in Nagasaki on Oct. 28.
Atomic bomb survivors lashed out at their government for siding with the United States and opposing the start of talks to outlaw nuclear weapons, despite Japan being the only nation to be victimized by nuclear bombs.
“Japan ended up going along with the United States, which flexes its muscles with nuclear weapons,” said Toshiki Fujimori, an atomic bomb survivor of Hiroshima and a senior official at the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, known as Hidankyo.
Hidankyo immediately lodged a protest with the government on Oct. 28, sending a letter that said Japan’s opposition to the start of treaty talks “trampled on the wishes of hibakusha.”
The U.N. General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security adopted a resolution on Oct. 27 to start negotiations in 2017 on a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading toward their total elimination.”
Japan was among 38 countries that voted against it, along with the United States and other nuclear powers.
Fujimori, 72, said Japan’s stance reminded him of the stinging criticism hurled at him when he visited the committee in New York early this month to press for the urgency of such a treaty.
An ambassador of a non-nuclear power nation spearheading anti-nuclear arsenals efforts suggested Japanese should lobby their own government first if they were so keen to see the treaty take shape.
The ambassador was criticizing that Japan, relying on the U.S. nuclear deterrence, was reluctant to support negotiations on the treaty from the outset.
Fujimori also said he disagreed with what a Japanese foreign ministry official said at a symposium on nuclear disarmament in September.
The diplomat described U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Hiroshima in May as an attempt to bridge the divide between nuclear and non-nuclear powers.
But Fujimori noted that Obama expressed no apology for the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the address delivered in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. In addition, the president avoided a direct reference to the bombing, saying, “Death fell from the sky and the world was changed.”
And five months later, Japan, together with the United States, voted against the U.N. resolution.
“The Japanese government is supposed to lead global calls for abolishing nuclear weapons, but it only appears to be a spokesman of Washington,” Fujimori said. “It should speak up by siding with hibakusha, not with the United States.”
Sunao Tsuboi, 91, co-chairperson of Hidankyo, also expressed dismay, calling Tokyo’s position “deplorable.”
Tsuboi shook hands with Obama when he visited Hiroshima, the first sitting U.S. president to do so.
But Washington pressured Japan, an ally, and other allied nations, to vote against the U.N. resolution when the step toward a nuclear ban was under discussion.
“It is sad for humans,” Tsuboi said of the opposition by Japan and other countries. “Countries should be united, seeing the issue of nuclear weapons from a humanitarian perspective.”
Toyokazu Ihara, 80, who gave a peace pledge at the annual peace ceremony in Nagasaki on Aug. 9, said he “was appalled” by Japan’s vote against it.
He said he urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to “act in a way only Japan can do” when they met after the ceremony.
“I am sorry that our voices were not reflected,” he said. “A global trend toward prohibiting nuclear weapons will not stop. Japan may find itself isolated in the world.”
Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue said while he welcomed the U.N. resolution as a “landmark step” to pave the way for nations to forge a legally binding path to outlaw nuclear weapons, he “was extremely disappointed” by the Japanese government’s opposition to it.
Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui echoed a similar sentiment.
Matsui said he sent a letter to Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, a lawmaker from a constituency in Hiroshima, in which he criticized the government’s position as “extremely regrettable.”