Hiroshima citizens respond with anger to U.S. withdrawal from nuclear treaty with Russia

by Yusuke Egawa and Kazuhei Higashitani, Staff Writers

Kyodo News reported on October 20 that U.S. President Donald Trump has made it clear that the United States will withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which was originally signed by the United States and the former Soviet Union. Mr. Trump criticized Russia, which had acceded to the agreement from the Soviet Union, for violating the treaty, and, at the same time, criticized China for developing intermediate-range missiles.

On October 21, in response to Mr. Trump’s announcement that he will withdraw the United States from the INF Treaty, residents of the A-bombed city of Hiroshima expressed anger, saying that U.S. withdrawal from this treaty runs counter to the goal of abolishing nuclear weapons. Some people called on the Japanese government, which is reluctant to stray from its policy of aligning with the United States in not supporting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, to urge the nuclear superpower to eliminate all nuclear arms.

The INF Treaty was signed by the United States and the former Soviet Union in 1987. “I was so surprised and disappointed about President Trump’s announcement. The INF Treaty is a historically significant treaty that seeks to eliminate nuclear weapons. It should not be easily and unilaterally overturned by one president,” said Toshiyuki Mimaki, 76, the vice chair of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hiroshima Hidankyo, chaired by Sunao Tsuboi). He continued by criticizing Mr. Trump for his abrupt announcement to withdraw from the treaty. “President Trump should learn what happened in Hiroshima 73 years ago,” he said, and he urged the Japanese government to invite Mr. Trump to the A-bombed cities at the earliest possible opportunity.

In February of this year, the Trump administration released the latest Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which includes the policy of developing low-yield nuclear arms. It was also learned this month that the United States carried out its first subcritical nuclear test under the Trump administration in December 2017.

“We feel very anxious about where the United States is going,” said Kunihiko Sakuma, 74, the chair of the other Hiroshima Hidankyo, expressing anger over U.S. actions. He pointed out that discussions involving the nuclear weapon states are needed to advance the aim of nuclear abolition, and he urged the Japanese government to support the nuclear weapons ban treaty and take the lead in such discussions.

Haruko Moritaki, 79, the co-chair of the citizens’ group known as the Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (HANWA), also denounced Mr. Trump’s policy, saying that it completely disregards the wishes of most citizens of the world, particularly the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who are seeking the abolition of nuclear weapons. Sharing her deep concerns, Ms. Moritaki said, “The U.S. decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty clearly indicates that the U.S. will not only make threats with nuclear weapons but is also making them ready for use. There is the high likelihood that some countries, particularly the U.S. and Russia, will engage in a new arms race.”

(Originally published on October 22, 2018)