Manila – The top diplomat of the Marshall Islands, a Pacific nation once used in U.S. nuclear bomb tests in the postwar years, called for people to look back at the dangers of nuclear weapons, as Japan marked the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki last month.
Foreign and Trade Minister Casten Nemra said in a written interview that survivors of radiation exposure, including those who live in his Pacific island nation, have a unique perspective that must be preserved by society as their number dwindles with time.
“We have to ensure that these experiences are recorded and also shared directly with our youngest and future generations,” Nemra said, adding that no country should have to suffer the effects of exposure to nuclear fallout.
He stressed that “human rights considerations” that have emanated from those experiences continue to inform local and global dialogue.
Both the Marshall Islands and Japan were exposed to nuclear fallout — Japan when the United States dropped atomic bombs on two western cities days before its surrender in World War II.
The Pacific country was among those used by the United States for its nuclear bomb tests after the war, with a number of its atolls belonging to the infamous “Pacific Proving Grounds” where numerous detonations occurred from 1946 to 1958.
The United States detonated 67 nuclear bombs in the Marshall Islands during the period, with the most powerful being the Castle Bravo test at Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954, causing nuclear fallout on nearby islands and their inhabitants.
Nemra said many Marshallese remain displaced from their ancestral homelands to this day and are unable to return due to radiation and other toxic contamination.
“The United States has taken action over time, but our nuclear risk still remains, and much more needs to be done,” Nemra said, noting that a nuclear commission has been created recently to coordinate response from the government as well as other sectors.
The Marshall Islands has also taken the global stage in advocating for compensation of nuclear weapons victims, having been elected a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council in October last year.
“We want to ensure that those voices get heard, and not overlooked because of larger politics,” Nemra said, urging other countries that share similar goals to seek membership as well to help ensure international scrutiny on the use of nuclear weapons.