HIROSHIMA/NAGASAKI – Atomic bomb survivors and anti-nuclear campaigners on Monday held a sit-in at Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park to protest North Korea’s sixth nuclear test the previous day.
About 90 protesters sat in front of the cenotaph for victims of the 1945 atomic bombing and raised a banner that read: “We strongly condemn the nuclear test.”
An organizer called the detonation “an unforgivable action which tramples on Hiroshima’s wishes for the total abolition of nuclear weapons.”
A similar protest was staged in September last year after North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test.
On Sunday, voices of condemnation and concern were voiced by A-bomb survivors, along with Japanese business leaders and relatives of Japanese abducted long ago by North Korean agents.
“Why wouldn’t North Korea try to know that there would be devastating damage if a nuclear weapon is used?” asked Hiroko Hatakeyama, a 78-year-old survivor of the Hiroshima A-bombing.
Shoso Kawamoto, 83, who lost six family members in the attack, expressed hope that North Korea and other nuclear-armed countries will recognize the dangers of the weapons and rethink their stance so the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will not be repeated.
He also criticized the United States for prioritizing sanctions over dialogue in dealing with Pyongyang — a policy that he thinks led to North Korea’s latest test on Sunday.
In Nagasaki, Mayor Tomihisa Taue condemned the detonation, saying in a statement that it was a “reckless act that increases the risk of the use of nuclear weapons.”
“The residents of this atomic-bombed city absolutely cannot tolerate such a foolish act,” he added.
Family members of the abduction victims expressed concern the test would worsen prospects for concluding the already stalled negotiations on the abduction issue.
Sakie Yokota, 81, whose daughter, Megumi, was spirited away to North Korea at the age of 13 in 1977, said she and other relatives of the abductees who have yet to return “cannot do anything or say anything” in this situation,” adding, “I only hope and can say, ‘Please bring them back.’ “
“I am no longer surprised by nuclear tests or missile launches by North Korea,” said Shigeo Iizuka, the 79-year-old head of a group of abductees’ families. His younger sister, Yaeko Taguchi, was abducted in 1978 at the age of 22.
“I hope the government will not use (the test) as an excuse for the lack of progress in the negotiations toward the abductees’ return. I hope it will act with the return of the family members as a top priority issue.”
The government officially lists 17 Japanese as abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s but suspects Pyongyang was involved in several more disappearances. The issue remains an obstacle to normalizing diplomatic ties with North Korea.
A senior official at a business lobby described the nuclear test as an “unforgivably reckless act.”
“If the situation develops into an armed conflict, its impact on the economy can’t be avoided, and such a risk is increasing,” the official said.
Another business lobby official acknowledged there is little the business community can do about Pyongyang’s weapons programs, saying other countries with stakes in the situation have no choice but to work closely with one another to prevent the North from proceeding along such a dangerous path.
In the meantime, Korean residents in Tokyo’s Shin-Okubo district, known as Koreatown, appeared confused about the repercussions of the latest test.
“I don’t know what Mr. Kim (Jong Un) is thinking,” said a woman in her 60s who has been in Japan for more than 30 years. “In all honesty, (a nuclear test) should not be conducted.”
A 30-year-old Korean woman who has lived in Japan for nearly 10 years and runs a clothing store in the area said she was both apprehensive and confident.
“I don’t think it will lead to a war,” she said.
“When a missile was launched recently, there were not so many people on the streets but there was no impact today,” she said.
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