A-bomb survivors in Hiroshima urge US to take action for nuclear abolition after Joe Biden declared winner in US presidential election

by Kyosuke Mizukawa, Shuhei Inomata, and Junji Akechi, Staff Writers

Expectations for North Korea denuclearization grow

On November 9, A-bomb survivors in Hiroshima and people who have engaged in campaigns to ban nuclear weapons called on Democrat Joe Biden, whose victory in the U.S. presidential election was assured, to take concrete actions for nuclear abolition as the new leader of the nuclear superpower that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan. Mr. Biden is believed to continue with the goals held by former U.S. President Barack Obama, who advocated a world without nuclear weapons and visited the A-bombed city of Hiroshima. Expectations for the denuclearization of North Korea, for example, have also grown somewhat.

Toshiyuki Mimaki, 78, vice chair of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations (chaired by Sunao Tsuboi), said earnestly, “I never felt an affinity with Mr. Trump, who announced ‘America First’ policies and violated international agreements. There also remained concerns over the new development of nuclear weapons. I hope Mr. Biden will take action to realize a world without nuclear weapons.”

The Trump administration furthered the development of low-yield nuclear weapons known as “usable nuclear weapons,” among other armaments. Mr. Mimaki hopes Mr. Biden will utilize his experience of serving as the vice president for Mr. Obama to promote nuclear disarmament. “I hope Mr. Biden will listen to Mr. Obama about his impressions of Hiroshima, and that he himself will visit Hiroshima to learn about the reality of the atomic bombing.”

Kunihiko Sakuma, 76, chair of the other Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations, expressed his expectations. “A Democratic administration that attaches importance to international cooperation will be in power. I don’t think we will immediately see progress in nuclear abolition,” said Mr. Sakuma. “Still, nuclear disarmament might make more progress than during the Trump administration.” He stressed, “The thing is, there was not as much progress in nuclear abolition as we had hoped for even during the Obama administration. We will continue to raise our voices.”

Under the Trump administration, the United States unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal. The U.S.-Russia negotiations to extend the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) have also stagnated. The United States has turned its back on every international effort to pursue nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament.

Haruko Moritaki, 81, co-chair of the citizen’s group Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (HANWA), said, “I’ve felt a bit relieved to think the United States will, at least, assume a sensible, cooperative attitude once again with the change of government.” Ms. Moritaki touched on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which will enter into force in January 2021. While she recognizes that the nuclear policy of the United States will not change drastically, she said firmly, “There is a chance the United States will sit down at the negotiating table. I also hope to work with American citizens and push for change.”

Mr. Trump was able to organize a first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit meeting with North Korea leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore in 2018. In the meantime, there appears to have been no progress made on the issue involving denuclearization of North Korea.

Lee Jong Geun, 91, chair of the Committee Seeking Measures for the Korean A-bomb Victims who experienced the atomic bombing about 1.8 kilometers from the hypocenter, voiced his request: “Because Japan and South Korea are under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, we cannot effectively press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. I hope the U.S. leader will stand at the forefront of the efforts for denuclearization.”

Kim Jin Ho, 74, executive director of the Council of A-bombed Koreans in Hiroshima and an in-utero exposed survivor, said, “There is a possibility that nuclear weapons will disappear from the Korean Peninsula if the United States abandons its hostile policy toward North Korea and builds relations of trust. I hope the United States will itself make an effort to build peace, based on the spirit of the joint statement signed by the leaders of the United States and North Korea in Singapore.”

(Originally published on November 10, 2020)