A-bomb survivors call for Obama to visit Hiroshima

by Hiromi Morita, Staff Writer

Seven organizations of A-bomb survivors, including the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations, have decided to jointly send a letter to President-elect Barack Obama in time for his inauguration ceremony on January 20. This will be the first letter sent by these organizations to the nuclear superpower’s incoming leader urging him to visit the A-bombed city.

  The letter was proposed by Sunao Tsuboi, 83, chairman of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations, who also serves as the co-chairperson of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations. Representatives of these survivors’ organizations are working on the final draft.

Through the letter, these organizations will urge the next president to visit Hiroshima to grasp the true consequences of the atomic bombing by listening to firsthand accounts from A-bomb survivors and spending time at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. They will also call for concrete action from the next administration, such as exercising leadership to bring success to the next NPT (Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty) review conference in 2010.

Since Harry S. Truman, who authorized use of the atomic bomb, there have been ten U.S. presidents, but none of the eleven have visited Hiroshima while in office. The highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Hiroshima thus far has been Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who attended the G8 Summit of Lower House Speakers held in Hiroshima in September 2008.

While President George W. Bush has balked at nuclear disarmament, Mr. Obama has indicated an intention to ultimately eliminate nuclear weapons, a stance set forth in the platform of the Democratic Party during the presidential campaign. As for concrete steps toward disarmament, such as ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Mr. Obama has expressed his willingness to take positive action after the Bush administration failed to approve this pact.

After Mr. Obama won convincingly in last November’s presidential election, the people of Hiroshima have shown an outpouring of hope for the prospect of changes in U.S. nuclear policy. At the same time, this feeling is tempered by the fact that the new president has also revealed his intention to maintain the country’s nuclear arsenal as long as other nations retain their weapons.

Chairman Tsuboi has studied books and speeches by Mr. Obama, who will be the first black president of the United States. “I think Mr. Obama can understand other people’s pain due to his own experiences of racial discrimination,” he said. “I believe that, by coming to Hiroshima, he would then promote U.S. nuclear policy not from the standpoint of diplomatic deal-making between nations, but from a basic respect for human life.”

(Originally published on January 4, 2009)

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