Atom bomb survivors vent anger over North Korea’s nuclear test
Atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, members of anti-nuclear groups and relatives of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea decades ago expressed anger on Friday over North Korea’s fifth nuclear test.
Hiroshi Harada, a former director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum who survived the August 6, 1945, US atomic bombing of city, lashed out at North Korea, saying the country “conducts nuclear tests because it has no idea about the tragic consequences of using nuclear weapons”.
“The United Nations is not functioning, and [thus] North Korea could repeat its actions,” Harada, 77, said, referring to repeated nuclear tests despite UN Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang.
The Security Council adopted tighter sanctions in March, following North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range ballistic missile launch the next month. The North was undeterred as it continued firing ballistic missiles in subsequent months.
Sunao Tsuboi, a 91-year-old Hiroshima atomic bomb survivor who had a brief chat with US President Barack Obama during his historic visit to Hiroshima in May, said, “As an atomic bomb survivor, I cannot help but feel indignant at the test which was conducted amid a growing momentum in global efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons following US President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima.”
Tsuboi is also a chairperson of the Japan Confederation of A- and H- Bomb Sufferers Organisations.
Takeshi Yamakawa, a 79-year-old survivor in Nagasaki, which was bombed three days after Hiroshima, said, “With the tests conducted over and over, I feel empty thinking of how the voices of the people in the atomic bombed sites do not get through.”
“It is important for nuclear weapon-possessing countries to work with the international community in reducing nuclear weapons ... so that [North Korea] would see it does not need to be nuclear-armed for its security,” said Yamakawa, who has staged sit-ins to protest nuclear tests by North Korea and the United States.
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Family members of abductees expressed concern about the impact of the test on negotiations between Tokyo and Pyongyang over the abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s.
“I am angered at North Korea’s repeated acts of barbarism,” said Shigeo Iizuka, the 78-year-old head of a group representing abductees’ families, whose younger sister Yaeko Taguchi was abducted in 1978 at the age of 22. He expressed concern the nuclear test could “delay progress on the abduction issue”.
Sakie Yokota, 80, whose daughter Megumi was abducted to North Korea in 1977 at age 13, said she and other relatives of the abductees “cannot do anything” in a situation like this, urging politicians to “resolve the issue through diplomatic means”.
There has been no substantial progress on the issue, after North Korea agreed with the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in May 2014 to reinvestigate the abductions. In February this year, North Korea said it was suspending the probe in response to Japan’s tougher sanctions over its nuclear and missile tests.
Japan officially lists 17 nationals as abduction victims but suspects North Korea’s involvement in more disappearances. The abduction issue remains an obstacle to Japan and North Korea normalising diplomatic ties. Meanwhile, in Osaka, western Japan, Korean residents were anxious about the repercussions of the latest nuclear test.
In Osaka’s Tsuruhashi area, home to a large Korean community, a 53-year-old Korean resident fretted that North Korea’s action might “embolden groups working to ostracise Korean people”.
A third-generation Korean resident in his 30s lamented that “the entire Korean community based in Japan is subject to strong criticism every time there is negative news about North Korea”.