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A-bomb survivor Setsuko Thurlow hopes Japan’s new PM can lead nuclear disarmament debate

A-bomb survivor Setsuko Thurlow hopes Japan’s new PM can lead nuclear disarmament debate, October 6, 2021 (Mainichi Japan) Japanese original by Isamu Gari, Hiroshima Bureau) HIROSHIMA — The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) Fumio Kishida was elected prime minister on Oct. 4, the first time in 30 years a politician from a Hiroshima Prefecture constituency has assumed the office.

In a telephone interview with the Mainichi Shimbun, Setsuko Thurlow, 89, welcomed the appointment of a prime minister from Hiroshima and shared a message for Kishida, who is a distant relative. Now a resident of Canada, Thurlow was exposed to the atomic bombing in Hiroshima, devoted herself to the campaign for nuclear abolition for many years, and was the first A-bomb survivor to deliver a speech at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 2017.

Thurlow has engaged in activism with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), an international NGO that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017, and has continued to relay her experience of the atomic bombing. She was invited along with ICAN’s executive director to the Nobel Prize ceremony, where they received a medal and certificate.

In December 2018, Thurlow went to LDP headquarters in Tokyo to meet with Kishida for the first time, when he was chair of the party’s Policy Research Council. On her impressions of him, she said, “I was worried he might have a politician’s arrogance, but when I met him, we were able to talk openly.”

The Japanese government does not participate in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which bans the possession and use of nuclear weapons and came into force in January 2021. It does however consider it its duty to be a bridge between nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states.

Thurlow dismissed this stance, saying, “There’s no explanation as to how this role will be accomplished, it’s just an excuse.” From her overseas vantage on the Japanese government’s response to nuclear issues, she said, “Japan has lacked a leader who can lead the discussion. This has prevented the voices of the people and A-bomb survivors from being heard, and stopped discussion of important issues such as nuclear disarmament and nuclear abolition.”

As a politician from Hiroshima, Kishida has a strong commitment to nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. During his tenure as foreign minister starting in 2012, he established the “Group of Eminent Persons,” a group of experts from both nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states, and has worked on nuclear disarmament. In 2016, when then President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, Kishida provided explanations to the president at Peace Memorial Park.

Thurlow does not believe that just because Kishida has become prime minister, the Japanese government’s stance on the TPNW and other issues will easily change. But she noted that “the fact he is a prime minister from Hiroshima means the world will watch him more closely than ever.”………….

October 7, 2021 - Posted by | weapons and war

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