Hibakusha urge Trump to put humanity first

Kyodo, AP

Hibakusha expressed concern Saturday about the prospects of nuclear disarmament under new U.S. President Donald Trump, with one calling on him to think from the perspective of all humanity rather than his signature phrase of “America First.”

Sunao Tsuboi, head of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organization, watched Trump give his inauguration address live on TV and said, “While he only talked about America first, I want him to think based on all of mankind.”

Touching on campaign remarks by Trump last year that appeared to suggest Japan and South Korea might need to obtain their own nuclear weapons, Tsuboi, 91, said he thought, “What the hell?”

Trump, however, later denied suggesting that countries such as Japan and South Korea should go nuclear.

Shigeaki Mori, a 79-year-old A-bomb survivor who was hugged by former U.S. President Barack Obama in May last year during his visit to Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, said, “I wanted him (Trump) to talk about U.S. nuclear policy from now and listen to a more elegant speech.”

Sakue Shimohira, an 82-year member of the antinuclear movement in Nagasaki, which was hit by the second A-bomb three days after Hiroshima, said he does not expect progress in disarmament under Trump.

“I want him to make efforts so that nuclear weapons will not increase at least,” Shimohira said.

Meanwhile, on the streets of Tokyo, some residents voiced fears Trump’s “America First” policy will usher in an era of populism and protectionism at the expense of everyone else.

Tadashi Gomibuchi, who works in the manufacturing industry, recorded Trump’s inauguration speech overnight as he was keen to hear what the new president had to say.

“Trump is trying to make big changes to the way things are. Changes are good sometimes, but when America, the most powerful, loses stability . . . it’s a grave concern,” he said. “If you take his words literally, it may destabilize the world going forward and I’m really worried. I hope things will lead to a soft landing.”

Retiree Kuninobu Inoue, who lived in the U.S. during the 1990s, is concerned about trade friction with the U.S., citing Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership.

“Japan-U.S. relations are not just about security. Our good relations rely so much on trade,” he said.

Protectionist policies such as the withdrawal from TPP and renegotiation of NAFTA will have a negative impact on the global economy including Japan’s, said Akio Mimura, head of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“These policies only enhance protectionist and populist movements spreading around the world, and could largely shake the free trade system that has backed global growth,” he said.