Japan, the only country to experience a nuclear attack, refuses to sign a UN treaty banning nuclear weapons

23-Jan-2021 Intellasia | Abc Net | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hiroshi Harada was six years old when the United States dropped the world’s first nuclear weapon in war on the western Japanese city of Hiroshima.

“First there was a flash,” he said.

“My father quickly covered my body without knowing what it was. We were facing down and there was a blast the next moment.

“The ceilings, roof beam and walls fell on top of my father and he suffered serious injuries, but miraculously [he] survived the atomic bomb.”

Hiroshi lost consciousness, and when he woke he saw his home city on fire and in ruins.

“When I woke up and crawled out of the rubble, I couldn’t see anyone, but when I looked carefully… all the people who were around me had fallen to the ground. There were countless people who were unconscious or dead,” he said.

“A fire was burning behind us and we had no way of rescuing them because we had to get out. We didn’t have the tools to save them.

“Those people were killed, burned to death in front of us.”

This is just one of Hiroshi’s chilling, graphic memories of that day on August 6, 1945.

Approximately 80,000 people were killed as a direct result of the blast, and another 35,000 were injured.

By the end of the year, another 60,000 would be dead from the effects of the fallout.

A second bomb dropped on the city of Nagasaki several days later killed at least 74,000 people.

“It was hell, such an atrocious condition that you just can’t create, the worst ever,” Hiroshi said.

“So it must never happen again.”

Hiroshi is one of more than 100,000 hibakusha, the Japanese word for atomic bomb survivors.

“I thought we had to work very hard on making sure this would never be repeated,” he said.

Today, some of that hard work will be realised. But their own country will not be part of it.

A new nuclear treaty is missing signatures

The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will come into effect, outlawing the development, testing, possession and use of nuclear weapons.

At the UN’s general Assembly last year, the 75th anniversary since the bombs were dropped, prime minister Yoshihide Suga said: “Hiroshima and Nagasaki must never be repeated.”

“With this resolve, Japan will spare no effort in realising a world free of nuclear weapons while firmly upholding the Three Non-Nuclear Principles,” he said.

But Japan, the only country to have suffered the horrors of nuclear weapons in war, voted against the treaty.

Why?

Japan opted to back its current key ally, the United States, which dropped the bombs in the first place.

The US strongly opposes the new treaty and its allies including Australia voted against ratification.

None of the nuclear-armed states including Russia or China voted for the ban either, prompting criticism that its effect will be limited.

It was ratified by 50 countries late last year, and comes into effect today, and the US has continued to pressure countries to pull out of the treaty.

Both Australia and Japan support the goal of a world free from nuclear weapons. They say they just do not believe this treaty is the way to achieve it.

How Biden changes the nuclear state of play

Despite the hopes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors, it is unlikely the US will immediately change course given the nuclear challenges facing President Joe Biden.

North Korea has vowed to increase its atomic arsenal, a key nuclear weapons control pact with Russia is set to expire next month and negotiations on the future of the Iran Nuclear Deal all make for a confronting series of problems.

But there is likely to be some progress, as President Biden pledged during his election campaign to narrow the role that nuclear weapons play, indicating their sole purpose should be to deter or respond to a nuclear attack.

It contrasts with the previous administration’s policy that warned the US could use nuclear weapons to respond to significant non-nuclear strategic attacks in extreme circumstances.

So where to next in the fight to get rid of nuclear weapons? It depends who you ask.

Japan has pointed to an older agreement, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, as one that should serve as the key document to support.

Countries that support the treaty point to the fact that nuclear weapons have not been used in war since 1945 as evidence of its success.

But the Nobel Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) said that treaty did not go far enough.

“The Non-Proliferation Treaty was negotiated in the 1960s to try to stop the spread of nuclear weapons,” said Tim Wright from ICAN.

“There was also a general commitment by some of the nuclear-armed states at the time to work towards nuclear disarmament, but that commitment to disarm hasn’t been fulfilled.”

The treaty does not establish a comprehensive ban on nuclear weapons, according to ICAN.

“And so, the nuclear armed states have argued that they can legitimately retain their weapons under that treaty,” Wright said.

Why Australia opted out of the treaty

As allies of the United States, Australia and Japan both receive the protection of America’s nuclear weapons.

Some defence experts argue it could jeopardise the alliances if they were to make a stand and support the nuclear weapons ban.

ICAN said that Australia was one of the most active countries in trying to prevent the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons from being negotiated.

“It convened a group of countries that were allies to the US to try to stall the negotiations to stop the UN from adopting a resolution to start the negotiations,” Wright said

“And it did so, no doubt… in order to satisfy its ally, the United States, who believed that this treaty would fundamentally limit its ability to maintain an arsenal of nuclear weapons.”

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade did not directly address the criticism from ICAN and said in a statement that they believed the ban would be ineffective.

“Our long-held focus is on progressing nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament through a progressive, practical approach that engages all states, especially nuclear weapon states, in the process,” a spokesperson said.

“This position acknowledges the realities of the international security environment; builds trust between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states; and acknowledges the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as the cornerstone of the disarmament and non-proliferation system.”

Japan said it would continue to make efforts in building bridges among countries with different views and contribute actively to discussions in the international community for the advancement of nuclear disarmament.

“There exists an apparent divergence of views on how best to advance nuclear disarmament,” Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Ageing Hiroshima survivors vow to keep fighting

A Japanese Foreign Ministry official said the government was aware of the support for the ban from survivors in Japan and that it gave great respects to their efforts to convey the realities of the devastation and humanitarian consequences.

It vowed to continue “to make efforts to garner understanding and support of the government’s position from the public.”

For some survivors, that approach is difficult to accept. For those who have witnessed the horrors of nuclear weapons, time is running out for them to continue to share their powerful stories.

The average age of survivors is now into the 80s and because of COVID-19 lectures from hibakusha at the local museum have fallen by 90 per cent.

Hiroko Hatakeyama, 83, was a few kilometres from the hypocentre and witnessed her young relatives die from the effects of the bomb.

She has been fighting to abolish nuclear weapons for more than 60 years and wants to see more leadership from her government and support from Australia’s.

“Japan suffered from the nuclear attack, Japan is the only country that can raise the voices of hibakusha” she said.

“I think the survivors have a duty to appeal until they die. The survivors experienced it so we need to convey the experiences until we die.”

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-22/hiroshima-survivors-react-as-japan-refuses-to-sign-nuclear-deal/13069848

 

Category: Japan

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