A-bomb survivors find hope in Prime Minister Hatoyama’s speech

by Junichiro Hayashi, Staff Writer

"Japan should take the lead in the pursuit of the elimination of nuclear weapons," Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, representing the A-bombed nation of Japan, stated on the dais of the United Nations. On the following day in Japan, September 25, atomic bomb survivors (hibakusha) in Hiroshima welcomed the prime minister's statement. Figures in the antinuclear field, too, praised the statement and pondered concrete actions that Japan should take in the future.

Toshiko Tanaka, 70, a resident of Higashi Ward, Hiroshima, offered her A-bomb account at a meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference held in May of this year in the United States. "I found hope in the speech," she said. "I have a growing hope for the earliest possible elimination of nuclear weapons. I want the Japanese government to sustain a strong will for nuclear abolition in order to work steadily toward this goal."

Kota Kiya, 68, secretary general of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations, chaired by Sunao Tsuboi, praised the speech for calling on world leaders to visit the A-bombed cities. He stressed, “If the U.S. president, the Russian prime minster, and other world leaders are given the opportunity to grasp the horrific consequences of the atomic bombings, their determination to abolish nuclear weapons would be even stronger. We, the hibakusha, will make efforts, too."

Kazushi Kaneko, 83, the chair of another faction of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations, remarked that "The call on the world leaders to visit the A-bombed cities is an important factor in Japan taking the lead in the pursuit of nuclear abolition."

Meanwhile, Takao Takahara, 54, professor at Meiji Gakuin University and a specialist in international politics and peace studies, spoke of the actions that Japan should take, saying, "We must not leave the issue to U.S. President Barack Obama. Japan, which takes its place under the U.S. nuclear umbrella for granted, should review the current situation and begin discussions."

Noriko Sado, 36, associate professor at Hiroshima Shudo University, who specializes in international security, stressed, "The United States is trying to promote nuclear reduction. It is important for Japan, a U.S. ally, to tell the United States that we do not need nuclear deterrence."

Hiroshima Mayor lauds speech

On September 25, Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba held a news conference and praised Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's announcement at the United Nations Security Council Summit that Japan would take the lead in the campaign for nuclear abolition, saying, "The speech has made a major change in Japanese diplomacy."

Referring to the speech by Prime Minister Hatoyama, Mayor Akiba stressed, "The speech, which properly conveyed the thoughts of hibakusha to the international community, was of great significance." Eyeing the NPT Review Conference in May 2010, he commented, "With this speech, I found hope that the Japanese government will join hands with U.S. President Obama and fulfill its role in leading the world toward nuclear abolition."

(Originally published on September 26, 2009)