NEW YORK – Atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki joined anti-nuclear activists in New York Thursday where they voiced their concerns ahead of a General Assembly meeting that will vote on whether to ban nuclear weapons.
The resolution, to be voted on in the coming weeks, has the potential to break a decades-long stalemate over the legality of nuclear weapons. It sets out to establish a mandate in 2017 on a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading toward their total elimination,” and has given aging atomic bomb survivors a renewed sense of optimism.
“I watch these deliberations with hope in my heart — hope that we stand at the threshold of abolishing nuclear weapons,” Takaaki Morikawa said at a panel discussion at the headquarters of the U.N.
Morikawa survived the Aug. 6, 1945, bombing of Hiroshima. He was 6 years old and just 9 kilometers (5.5 miles) away from the epicenter when the device detonated over his city.
Along with his father, mother and younger sister, Morikawa was also exposed to nuclear fallout from the bomb, such as “black rain.”
Morikawa raised concerns about the roughly 15,000 nuclear weapons that still exist today despite dramatic reductions having been made since the height of the Cold War. At one time, there were roughly 70,000 nuclear weapons in the world. He pointed out that about 4,000 nuclear missiles are always at the ready and could be fired “at a moment’s notice.”
“The existence of even one atomic weapon is one weapon too many,” he said, adding that the best way to stigmatize the bombs is by sharing the inhumane impact they had on people like himself.
Like Morikawa, Noriko Sakashita, another Hiroshima hibakusha, and Joji Fukahori, who lived through the Nagasaki bombing, also called upon people around the globe to help them realize their dream of a nuclear free world.
They had come to the city on the Peace Boat, which is operated by a Japanese nongovernmental organization whose aim is to build friendships and spread pacifism around the world.
Aboard the vessel at its dock in Manhattan, Sakashita spoke about her vision of a nuclear-free world in front of a crowd of thousands including U.N. officials, diplomats and other guests.
“I believe that hibakusha testifying to the inhumane and cruel nature of nuclear weapons can be and should be the only source of nuclear deterrence,” she said. “Many of us hibakusha sincerely wish that we will be able to see the world without nuclear weapons while we are still alive.”
The Peace Boat, on its 92nd voyage, stopped in New York on its way from Europe. It will continue on to the Bahamas and Cuba.
Fukahori, for his part, made his remarks at a packed auditorium full of students from the United Nations International School. He recounted the tremendous hardships he, as a 14-year-old junior high school student, faced after losing his mother and three siblings following the Nagasaki blast on Aug. 9, 1945.
“I cannot agree with nuclear weapons,” he told the students through a translator. “I would really like to ask for your cooperation to work together toward a world that has peace and no wars.”
Among the activists who back the nuclear ban treaty is Clifton Truman Daniel, the grandson of Harry S. Truman, the American president who authorized the dropping of the bombs on Japan.
Daniel accompanied the A-bomb survivors as they made presentations in various venues and has in the past met with hibakusha in Japan and in the United States.
“I would support the ban,” he said when asked about its possible passage at the U.N. General Assembly. “It is long overdue.”
Daniel said he believes his grandfather would agree with him.
“There is actually no good reason to have any kind of weapon,” he said. “But these (nuclear weapons) are the worst because they are the biggest and the worst, and the most horrible.”
The hibakusha and other activist say they remain hopeful the U.N. resolution will be adopted.
“The achievement of this goal will be nothing less than the realization of a dream that hibakusha have held in their hearts for 71 years — a world without these evil weapons,” said Morikawa.
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