This August marked 75 years since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The average age of the Hibakusha, the survivors who have been calling for nuclear weapons to be abolished during their lifetimes, is now over 83 years old. The nuclear powers are engaged in a new arms race and the threat of nuclear weapons is growing. Yet, the movement for ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), adopted at the United Nations three years ago, is making steady progress. Four countries newly ratified the treaty on August 6 and 9 this year, the anniversaries of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively. As an International Steering Group member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Peace Boat is calling for the early entry into force of the TPNW, and for Japan to also sign the treaty.
Parliamentarians from all parties debate in Hiroshima
On August 5, the Japan NGO Network for Nuclear Weapons Abolition held a debate on the theme "What should Japan do now to abolish nuclear weapons" in Hiroshima City and online, inviting parliament members from all major political parties. Peace Boat, in cooperation with ANT-Hiroshima, coordinated the debate, which was moderated by Kawasaki Akira.
At the event, Nakamitsu Izumi, UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, stressed that nuclear disarmament is a tool for security, and urged Japan to continue dialogue on the TPNW. In her remarks, Omi Asako, Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Japan, stated that Japan, as the only country to have suffered atomic bombings in wartime, wanted to "lead the international community's efforts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons", while ICAN’s Executive Director Beatrice Fihn emphasised that Japan should be proud of the work of the Hibakusha, and that Japan must join the TPNW. She also stressed that it is possible to join the treaty even under the Japan-US security alliance.
During the parliamentarians’ remarks, the shared awareness of the growing nuclear threat, the importance of Japan's role as a country which has experienced Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the need for further debate on nuclear weapons abolition in the Diet were evident. Numerous opposition parliamentarians argued that Japan should aim to join the TPNW and should participate in the meeting of States Parties once it enters into effect, even as an observer. The debate was streamed online and viewed by more than 2,100 people. For a full report on the session, please see here in Japanese.
Appealing for nuclear abolition on social media
In early August, Peace Boat’s delegation of Kawasaki Akira, Watanabe Rika and Matsumura Masumi carried out a variety of activities from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, especially to convey the atmosphere and activities virtually to those not able to travel to Japan for the anniversary. Kawasaki represented ICAN at the official ceremonies in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In Hiroshima, Peace Boat and ICAN collaborated with Hibakusha Tanaka Terumi and Kondo Koko to spread their urgent appeal for nuclear abolition to wide audiences around the world through both social and traditional media, including both live and recorded talks. Kondo Koko’s video interview on "NowThis" has received more than one million views, while the Reuters interview with Tanaka Terumi has been distributed to dozens of countries worldwide. In addition, an article on the life of Canada-based Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow appeared on the front page of the New York Times on August 6, drawing a great deal of international attention to the 75th anniversary.
As well as the above, Peace Boat was also involved in a variety of other activities including online events broadcast from the atomic bombed cities, as well as the Hiroshima-ICAN Academy 2020. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented gatherings in person and travel to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Peace Boat will continue to make all efforts to amplify the voices of the survivors and their call to ensure that the TPNW will enter into force within 2020.