NEW YORK – Michiko Tsukamoto, who was just 10 years old when an atomic bomb was dropped over her hometown of Hiroshima in 1945, on Tuesday urged countries that have not signed a landmark nuclear weapons ban treaty to do so quickly.
“Last year the nuclear ban treaty was made. I felt years and years of (the) hibakusha’s work bore fruit and we are one step closer to achieving our dream of a nuclear-free world,” she said at a U.N. headquarters event.
The treaty, which was adopted in July last year by 122 countries, will come into force after 50 countries sign and ratify it. So far 69 countries have signed it and 19 ratified it.
“I hope for a world where everyone thinks that having nuclear weapons is a shame,” she said. “We do not have much time and I hope that every country joins this treaty and creates a world without nuclear weapons.”
The average age of the survivors, known in Japanese as hibakusha, is now said to be 82. As they face health problems while their numbers dwindle, it is increasingly difficult for them to speak out at domestic and international events.
The 84-year-old Tsukamoto, who has been designated by the Foreign Ministry as a special communicator for a nuclear-free world, is part of a Japanese nongovernmental organization’s project that has taken her and others like her around the world to promote nuclear arms abolition.
Tsukamoto spoke out at an event held on the fringes of talks on disarmament and international security by a U.N. committee .
“I think there is nobody like the hibakushas who can tell the story,” Austria’s ambassador in Geneva, Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, said. “We all know that this tragedy has been instrumental in bringing about the treaty.”
Austria has been at the forefront of pushing for the nuclear weapons ban treaty and Tichy-Fisslberger announced that Vienna is volunteering to host the first conference of the parties to the treaty once it enters into force.
Mexico’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Juan Sandoval Mendiolea, also stressed how important it is to hear about the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.
“There cannot be another face more clear, and more sincere, and more legitimate to oppose nuclear weapons than the hibakusha,” he said.
Like Austria, Mexico has also been an active proponent of the treaty and hosted a major conference in 2014.
“The U.N. plays a big role for world peace, I think we should work together and fight together against the pressure from nuclear-armed states,” said Tsukamoto. “Humans and nuclear weapons cannot live together!”