After the summit: A-bomb survivors ask… What’s next?

On June 12, the day when Donald Trump, President of the United States, and Kim Jong-un, Leader of the Workers’ Party of Korea, held the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit, the A-bomb survivors’ groups in Hiroshima Prefecture evaluated the talks as “a big step forward to denuclearization.” In order to take advantage of the summit as an historic opportunity for building peace in Northeast Asia, some called for a specific path and timing to ensure that denuclearization is implemented.

In a joint four-point statement of President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America, and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People’s Republic (DPRK), both parties stated aims to improve relations between their respective nations, and for the DPRK to reaffirm its commitment toward “the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Later, Mr. Trump stressed the they would start that process immediately.

Kim Jin Ho, 72, executive director of the Council of Atom-bombed Koreans in Hiroshima, said, “It was a great day that marked a breakthrough for a new relationship between North Korea and the United States. I could feel a hope for establishing a system to build peace.” Kim Jin Ho further stated that he felt confidence was built between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim when he watched their behaviors on TV. Showing his expectation for future negotiations between the two nations, he added, “If denuclearization is promoted on the Korean Peninsula, it could have significant impact toward eliminating nuclear arms throughout Asia and the other parts of the world.”

Park Namjoo, 85, the chair of the Committee Seeking Measures for the Korean A-bomb Victims of the Hiroshima Headquarters of the Korean Residents Union in Japan (MINDAN), welcomed the summit, saying, “I am impressed that they could finally make this happen. Though it may be difficult to conclude the peace treaty between South Korea and North Korea soon, South Koreans and North Koreans are originally from the same ethnic group and have the common language and culture. I hope this summit would be a chance for both nations to move towards peace.”

Keisaburo Toyonaga, 82, head of the Hiroshima branch of the Association of Citizens for the Support of South Korean Atomic Bomb Victims, was delighted by the summit and said, “It is of great significance that leaders of the two nations signed the joint statement. I hope the talks can help enhance interactions between South Korea and North Korea.”

Toshiyuki Mimaki, 76, vice chair of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hiroshima Hidankyo, chaired by Sunao Tsuboi), evaluated the summit by saying, “It is very meaningful that North Korea has been committed to denuclearization,” but he also pointed out it was crucial to make further efforts to proceed with international nuclear disarmament. He requested that the nuclear superpowers such as the United States and Russia express any intention to reduce the nuclear weapons they possess, too.

Kunihiko Sakuma, 73, chair of the other Hiroshima Hidankyo, seemed to be deeply moved by the talks. He said, “I assume the campaign for abolition of nuclear weapons, which we have continued to work on so far, and the movements of the civil society may have made the impact to the summit between the U.S. and North Korea. Whether denuclearization can be realized or not would depend on our efforts from now.” He added, “I would like the two nations to indicate the specific timing and process of denuclearization in future negotiations. I also would like the Japanese government to not only to follow the path taken by the United States but to be involved in the efforts for denuclearizing North Korea more aggressively.”

Hiroshima Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki released a comment in which he wrote, “We need to make sure the summit can lead to a complete abandonment of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles in a verifiable and irreversible manner. I strongly hope that the denuclearization process is moved forward steadily by overcoming the challenges.”

(Originally published on June 13, 2018)