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Legacy of war in Asia

Hiroshima survivor accuses West of disarmament sabotage as Nobel Prize is awarded to anti-nuclear group

Sunday’s ceremony in Oslo will bring together several survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings that killed at least 220,000 people 72 years ago

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 December, 2017, 4:31pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 December, 2017, 8:00pm

A Hiroshima bombing survivor, who is to receive the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), on Saturday accused Western nuclear powers of “sabotaging” disarmament efforts.

While Sunday’s Nobel ceremony in Oslo will bring together several survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings that killed at least 220,000 people 72 years ago, it will be snubbed by the ambassadors of the United States, France and the UK.

Contrary to custom, the three western nuclear powers will be represented by second-ranking diplomats in an apparent sign of distrust of the ICAN-backed treaty to ban the nuclear weapon.

Setsuko Thurlow, who was 13 years old when the atomic bomb exploded in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, said he was “not too surprised”.

“They tried in many different ways to sabotage, to discredit what we tried to do,” the 85-year-old, who now lives in Canada, told a press conference in Oslo.

“I am sorry that is happening … but maybe that shows they’re really annoyed at what success we have had so far,” she added.

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A coalition of hundreds of NGOs around the world, ICAN has worked for a historic nuclear weapons ban treaty which 122 countries in July agreed to sign and which 56 have signed to date.

But the treaty has been weakened by the absence of the nine nuclear powers among the signatories.

Thurlow also criticised her native Japan, which benefits from US nuclear protection over threats from North Korea, for failing to sign the treaty.

“Japan has a moral responsibility,” she said. “We’re the only ones to really know the horror” of nuclear weapons.

Among the countries possessing the bomb, only Israel, an unofficial nuclear power, will send its ambassador to attend the ceremony on Sunday, according to the Nobel Institute.

It comes after three more countries this week added their names to a growing list of nations that have signed onto the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

After signing the document, Ambassador Inga Rhonda King of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines said: “I have had the distinct honour of visiting Hiroshima and I feel very honoured that I am the signatory on behalf of my government because that was a real reminder of why it is necessary to ban nuclear weapons.”

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At the heart of it, it is about people and about the anguish that they have suffered and our determination never to have this happen again
Courtenay Rattray

Jamaican ambassador Courtenay Rattray, who travelled with King several years ago to Hiroshima recalled meeting with survivors and hearing their stories first hand.

“At the essence this is really a human story,” he said. “At the heart of it, it is about people and about the anguish that they have suffered and our determination never to have this happen again.”

Namibia’s Ambassador Neville Gertze said: “If there is one thing we can do as a global community [it] is to stand together to fight against further horrendous taking of lives and devastation that such weapons can cause.”

With the latest signatures, there are now 56 countries that have signed onto the treaty and three that have ratified it.

In order for the treaty to go into effect it must be ratified by 50 nations. Activists are hopeful this will happen in the near future despite heavy opposition from some countries, including Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

Additional reporting by Associated Press