My perspectives regarding TPNW, Part 7—Haruko Moritaki, 82, co-director of Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition

by Hiromi Kanazaki, Staff Writer

Dependence on “nuclear umbrella” remains highest barrier Country that experienced atomic bombings must change

Survivors of the atomic bombings began telling their experiences overseas not long after Japan was defeated in World War II. They sometimes showed their deeply scarred bodies and recounted their traumatic experiences. Many years of hard work and cooperation in the anti-nuclear movement inside and outside Japan have culminated in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). We must take action after consideration of how to make the most of this development and what might be possible.

Haruko Moritaki continued to call for establishment of the TPNW as co-director of the Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (HANWA). Her father was the late Ichiro Moritaki, who led the movement to ban A- and H-bombs
On that fateful day in 1945, civilians were killed indiscriminately before they could even wonder about the reason they were being killed. The dead cannot express their anger. When I was a child, I found a baby’s skull while I was playing at the river and brought it home. My father stared at the skull of this child he did not know and broke down in tears. I will never forget that moment.

Because I had been evacuated to a safer location before the atomic bombing, I continued to feel somewhat guilty about that as I spent my days with A-bomb orphans my father was supporting. In my own way, I have shouldered some of the burdens of victims and survivors who lived through hardships. I determined then to do everything I could to eradicate absolutely every last nuclear weapon.

As treaties to ban antipersonnel land mines and cluster bombs were realized in 1997 and 2008, respectively, under the leadership of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), I began to believe ever more strongly that was the only way to proceed forward. I became even more convinced of that when I met Tilman Ruff, one of the founding members of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), in 2009.

In nuclear-armed India, people living near uranium mines suffer from poverty and health problems. In Iraq, the United States used depleted uranium shells during the Gulf War and the Iraq War. Despite some difficulties, Ms. Moritaki visited those countries to conduct on-site surveys and communicated to the world the reality of the widespread harm caused by nuclear materials
The TPNW stipulates that states parties shall provide assistance to those affected by nuclear testing. The focus tends to remain on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the treaty has broadened our horizons and, in a sense, altered the definition of “hibakusha.”

Victims are created not only by the use and testing of nuclear weapons but also in every phase of a nuclear cycle, beginning with the mining of uranium, a material used in nuclear weapons. In that regard, the treaty has left a challenge that needs to be resolved. Military and peaceful purposes of the use of nuclear materials cannot be completely separated. My father’s words, “the complete rejection of all uses of the atom, including nuclear energy,” still hold true today.

The Japanese government’s joining of the treaty is nowhere in sight. Even as she undergoes cancer treatments, Ms. Moritaki has grown increasingly alarmed about the present situations in Japan as well as in Hiroshima and Nagasaki
It is hoped that Japan’s national government will attend the meeting of the States Parties, to be held within the next year, as an observer. I do not think the Japanese government will listen to such opinions, and even if it were to attend the meeting, the representatives might end up pouring cold water on the discussions. That was certainly the case on the initial day of the meeting to negotiate the treaty’s establishment held in 2017, as well as at an international meeting held in Austria in 2014 that served as the impetus for the 2017 meeting.

The most significant obstacle is the Japanese government’s reliance on the U.S. “nuclear umbrella,” a policy based on the nuclear alliance with the United States. Behind the scenes, the government has even been pushing the United States to strengthen its nuclear deterrence. This is just the other side of the same coin that assumes Japan should possess its own nuclear weapons if it were ever not able to rely on U.S. nuclear policy. If this reality were never revealed, the country that experienced the atomic bombings would never join the treaty. The A-bombed country is being called into question. This is only the beginning of a fierce battle.

Haruko Moritaki
Born in the city of Hiroshima in 1939, she graduated from Hiroshima University’s school of education. Co-chair of the Japan NGO Network for Nuclear Weapons Abolition. Member of the steering committee of the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons.

(Originally published on January 25, 2021)