While European and Iranian leaders work to salvage the Iran nuclear deal after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States in May and reimposed his first round of sanctions on Monday, activists, survivors, and Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui marked the 73rd anniversary of the U.S. dropping an atomic bomb on the Japanese city by calling for the total elimination of the world’s nuclear weapons.
“Today, with more than 14,000 nuclear warheads remaining, the likelihood is growing that what we saw in Hiroshima after the explosion that day will return, by intent or accident, plunging people into agony,” Matsui warned in a “moving” peace declaration delivered at a “somber” ceremony in Japan on Monday.
Sharing statements from hibakusha, or those who survived the American bombing in 1945, the mayor continued:
The hibakusha, based on their intimate knowledge of the terror of nuclear weapons, are ringing an alarm against the temptation to possess them. Year by year, as hibakusha decrease in number, listening to them grows ever more crucial. One hibakusha who was 20 says, “If nuclear weapons are used, every living thing will be annihilated. Our beautiful Earth will be left in ruins. World leaders should gather in the A-bombed cities, encounter our tragedy, and, at a minimum, set a course toward freedom from nuclear weapons. I want human beings to become good stewards of creation capable of abolishing nuclear weapons.”
Another hibakusha who was 20 makes this appeal: “I hope no such tragedy ever happens again. We must never allow ours to fade into the forgotten past. I hope from the bottom of my heart that humanity will apply our wisdom to making our entire Earth peaceful.” If the human family forgets history or stops confronting it, we could again commit a terrible error. That is precisely why we must continue talking about Hiroshima. Efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons must continue based on intelligent actions by leaders around the world.
Nuclear deterrence and nuclear umbrellas flaunt the destructive power of nuclear weapons and seek to maintain international order by generating fear in rival countries. This approach to guaranteeing long-term security is inherently unstable and extremely dangerous. World leaders must have this reality etched in their hearts as they negotiate in good faith the elimination of nuclear arsenals, which is a legal obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Furthermore, they must strive to make the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons a milestone along the path to a nuclear-weapon-free world.
Matsui also urged the Japanese government to join the historic United Nations treaty to ban nuclear weapons, which was adopted by dozens of nations last year and earned the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) a Nobel Peace Prize. Replicas of the award and diploma are on display at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum until Monday, and next will be sent to Nagasaki, the city the U.S. bombed three days later.
ICAN turned to Twitter on Monday to share Matsui’s words and urge all nations to join the U.N. treaty:
Paul Kawika Martin, senior director for policy and political affairs at the U.S.-based group Peace Action, said in a statement, “Besides paying respect and commemorating the lives lost in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, marking the anniversaries offers the world an opportunity to reflect on the threat still posed by nuclear weapons, and more importantly, an opportunity to organize for their reduction and elimination.”
“As the only country to ever use nuclear weapons in war,” Martin continued, “and as a signatory to the Nonproliferation Treaty, the United States has both a moral and legal obligation to negotiate in good faith with other nuclear-armed nations for the reduction and elimination of the world’s nuclear arsenals, including our own. Unfortunately, the Trump administration is instead moving forward with plans to spend $1.7 trillion adjusted for inflation on nuclear weapons over the next three decades.”
Several other activists and anti-nuclear organizations used social media on Monday to remember the bombing and demand that every nation work toward outlawing such weapons:
Meanwhile, students at Fukuyama Technical High School in Japan have unveiled a virtual reality experience that enables users to see Hiroshima on the day of the bombing. Their hope is that the VR project will discourage future use of nuclear weapons.
“Even without language, once you see the images, you understand,” Mei Okada, one of the students working on the project, told the Associated Press. “That is definitely one of the merits of this VR experience.”
This post has been updated with a statement from Peace Action.
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