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Japanese A-bomb survivor and activists press nations to ratify nuclear ban pact

Kyodo

A survivor of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki joined activists and diplomats Monday to press Japan and other countries to quickly ratify a landmark treaty banning nuclear weapons.

“None of them having (nuclear) weapons will contribute toward having peace,” Tokuko Kimura, 82, told an audience at a New York event. She was 10 when the United States dropped an atomic bomb over her city on Aug. 9, 1945, three days after detonating another device over Hiroshima.

Akira Kawasaki, international steering group member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, expressed hope that the treaty would take effect as soon as possible.

“With this historic treaty with us, we really have to accelerate the process of signing and ratification so that we can have the treaty be in force as soon as possible,” he said.

The push has been given a lift by the awarding of the peace prize but the nuclear ban treaty cannot go into force until 50 nations ratify it. So far, over 50 have signed.

Shion Urata, whose grandfather was exposed to radioactive fallout, expressed disappointment with the Japanese government for not having backed the bombing survivors — known as hibakusha — and their call to endorse the ban treaty.

The 23-year-old, who is affiliated with a hibakusha project, nevertheless expressed hope that grass roots action can lead to change.

“The peoples’ power — they are each very small on their own but when they come together, (it) is a very huge and powerful drive,” she said.

Many, such as Chizuru Azuma, an actress from Hiroshima, noted the importance of the new conversations that have been prompted by the awarding of the prize to ICAN.

“With the Nobel Peace Prize this year, it has created an opportunity for Japan to think about this more deeply,” she said. “Peace is not something that we should pray for, it won’t happen if we just pray for it. It is something that we need to think about and make the correct decisions in order to create a peaceful world.”

Austrian Ambassador to Geneva Thomas Hajnoczi also backed the efforts of the hibakusha to speak out, saying their testimony was instrumental in bringing about the ban treaty.

“It is so important that, after 72 years, finally we have now an internationally legal norm prohibiting nuclear weapons,” he said, adding that ban supporters, along with hibakusha and others, have to help “speed up” the process.

Monday’s event was held at U.N. headquarters in New York under the sponsorship of Japanese nongovernmental organization Peace Boat and the U.N. missions of Austria and Costa Rica, both staunch advocates of nuclear disarmament.