• Kyodo

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Nearly 70 percent of atomic bomb survivors in Japan are against amending the Constitution’s war-renouncing Article 9, with many thinking that adhering to it will keep the country out of war, a Kyodo News survey has shown.

Reflecting growing concerns among the survivors over the lack of progress toward achieving the abolition of nuclear weapons, around 80 percent of respondents also said they fear nuclear weapons might be used in the current international situation.

Questionnaires were sent in May or later to about 4,800 people who had been exposed to radiation due to the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70 years ago. Valid responses were received from about 1,150 people, and the results were published on Saturday.

On changing Article 9, which prohibits the use of force to settle international disputes, 15.6 percent said they support the idea, with many feeling there is a need for a military response to regional contingencies, while 16.2 percent said they “do not know” or did not give an answer.

Opponents to the amendment accounted for 68.2 percent. As for the reason, in which multiple answers were allowed, the largest group of people cited the need to keep Article 9 so as to “never engage in war again,” followed by people who said they feared an amendment could trigger an arms race.

In a free-answer section of the questionnaire, an 86-year-old man wrote that people’s lives in the postwar era “were protected by the article, even though (the Constitution) was established by the hands of the victor country (of World War II).”

An 83-year-old man said he thought the amendment is necessary to protect peace through enhancing the country’s deterrent power.

Meanwhile, 79.2 percent of respondents said they feared the use of nuclear weapons, naming countries such as Russia, China and North Korea. Some were concerned that nuclear arms might be used in terrorist acts by Islamic State militants.

Many respondents touched on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s remarks earlier this year in which he said Moscow had been ready to put its nuclear forces on alert in the process of annexing Crimea from Ukraine last year.

A 74-year-old woman called the remarks “dreadful” and wrote there is a need to spread the horror of atomic bombs to the world.

Respondents were divided on how to evaluate the existing Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty regime, given that the latest conference, in May, to review the treaty ended without a key outcome document.

Around 26 percent said the regime is contributing to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and should be maintained, while another 26 percent said it is not useful but should be kept because there is no alternative. Ten percent pointed to the need to create different frameworks.

Under the NPT, which entered into force in 1970, nuclear powers pledged to work toward disarmament in exchange for the promise that non-nuclear nations will not acquire nuclear weapons, while all countries have access to nuclear energy for peaceful use.

The survey also showed that 22.2 percent of respondents admitted they have not told their stories to people around them.

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