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NGO chief believes reference to hibakusha will stay in text of treaty banning nuclear arms

Kyodo

The head of a nongovernmental organization pursuing nuclear abolition believes the reference to the suffering of victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will remain in the final text of an envisaged treaty outlawing nuclear weapons.

“I don’t see anyone who would object to this mention. I expect it will be included in the final treaty,” Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said in a recent interview with Kyodo News.

She made the remarks ahead of the second round of negotiations to ban nuclear arms, to be held at the U.N. headquarters in New York from Thursday through July 7.

The first draft of a treaty released in late May said in its preamble that the countries participating in the U.N. talks are “mindful of the suffering of the victims of the use of nuclear weapons (hibakusha) as well as of those affected by the testing of nuclear weapons.”

Expressing deep concern about “the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons,” the text forbids states to develop, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess, transfer, receive, stockpile, test or use nuclear weapons.

Fihn said Austria and some other countries called for including the reference and ICAN chimed in “because the hibakusha are the living proof of the devastating humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.”

While portraying the draft as “a good first step,” she said she believes the text should “emphasize more on the existing risk of nuclear weapons and the lack of preparedness to respond to nuclear attack.”

She also said the text should make it plain that nuclear weapon states, which have refused to take part in the negotiations, can sign the treaty in the future.

“We don’t know how things will develop in the future, so we need language that pre-empts these situations, telling nuclear weapon states (they) can sign the treaty and then laying down how they should disarm,” she said.

The major nuclear weapon states — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — did not join the first session of the talks held in March, nor did Japan, Germany or South Korea, which rely on U.S. nuclear deterrence for protection.

Fihn said she expects the final text to be adopted on July 7. It would then be reported back to the U.N. General Assembly and open for signature.

The treaty, formally called the Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, would go into force 90 days after the document has been ratified by 40 countries.