Nuclear weapons can be eliminated: A-bomb testimonies given keen applause at PrepCom for NPT Review Conference

by Noritaka Egusa, Editor/Senior Staff Writer (dispatched from New York)

Four atomic bomb survivors (hibakusha) from Hiroshima, who attended the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) at U.N. headquarters in New York, have offered their testimonies of the atomic bombing at related gatherings. With their activity now complete, they will head back to Japan.

Toshiko Tanaka, 70, one of the four hibakusha, gave her A-bomb testimony at two of these gatherings, including one organized by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and held at U.N. headquarters. In a firm tone, she described her experience of the atomic bombing at the age of six. She was at home, about 2.3 kilometers from the hypocenter, and suffered burns to her head and arms. She said she witnessed a living hell. Ms. Tanaka then concluded her testimony by sharing the words of a young marine in Venezuela: “The strongest weapon in the days ahead is peace.” She met the soldier last year while on a global voyage sponsored by Peace Boat, a Tokyo-based NGO. Her testimony was met with keen applause.

Hiroo Iso, 67, and Takehisa Yamamoto, 65, also joined the global voyage organized by Peace Boat. Mr. Iso, who was attending U.N.-related gatherings for the first time, confirmed his belief that hibakusha must now take action in full view of the world, not simply Japan.

Mr. Yamamoto did not offer his testimony on the Peace Boat voyage, thinking because he was only an infant at the time, he could not speak forcefully about the bombing. However, reflecting on his experience of sharing his A-bomb account at a high school in New York, he said, “For instance, if we effectively tie the history that led to the atomic bombing with our A-bomb testimonies, hibakusha in their 60s, too, can also convey an important message.”

On May 8, Emiko Okada, 72, attended the PrepCom and related gatherings with her granddaughter Yuki Tominaga, 11. In the discussions of diplomats who support nuclear disarmament and abolition, Ms. Okada saw positive signs of progress.

(Originally published on May 10, 2009)

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