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A U.N. treaty to ban nuclear weapons takes effect Jan. 22, after confirmation last month that Honduras has become the 50th state party to ratify the pact.

Academic Ramesh Thakur argues that the enactment of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a much-needed shot in the arm for civil society and states hoping to achieve concrete progress toward the total elimination of such weapons. Importantly, unlike previous international attempts to rein in nukes, this treaty is nondiscriminatory and universal.

Yet the treaty remains strongly opposed by the United States and other nuclear powers. While ally Japan has joined Washington in refusing to ratify the pact, its entry into force could pile pressure on Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government to join, writes Eric Johnston.

Hiroshima atomic bombing survivor Setsuko Thurlow and ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn attend the Nobel Peace Prize awarded ceremony in Oslo in December 2017. | NTB SCANPIX / BERIT ROALD / VIA REUTERS
Hiroshima atomic bombing survivor Setsuko Thurlow and ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn attend the Nobel Peace Prize awarded ceremony in Oslo in December 2017. | NTB SCANPIX / BERIT ROALD / VIA REUTERS

The mayors of the two cities devastated by U.S. atomic bombs in World War II urged the government last week to sign and ratify the treaty. Survivors of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, known as hibakusha, have also welcomed Joe Biden’s victory in the U.S. presidential election, hoping that negotiations on nuclear disarmament will advance under his administration.

There are an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 second-generation hibakusha in Japan, with some suffering from illnesses they say are linked to their parents’ exposure.

While previous research has failed to find a genetic link between survivors’ exposure and health risks in their children, hundreds of hibakusha and their families are planning to undergo genome analysis to investigate further, the Japan-U.S. Radiation Effects Research Foundation announced recently.

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