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ICAN chief: Japan sabotaging nuclear disarmament

M6fI3wGBLc7triMaUtGF8YlOZvNuPWNQJ9Bt0hmPBeatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or ICAN, spoke to NHK about the possible game changers in the drive to get rid of the weapons of mass destruction.

Aug. 15, 2020

Hiroshima and Nagasaki in southwestern Japan are the only two cities to have suffered attacks using nuclear weapons. For people around the country, the anniversary month of August is a time to remember the tens of thousands of lives erased in the twin flashes in 1945, as well as the countless others affected by the subsequent radiation.

Fihn’s organization won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for its efforts to bring people to the negotiating table to pledge to work toward nuclear disarmament. The adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations was a step forward, in which ICAN played a major role.

Fihn says the next few months are crucial, as her team has given itself until the end of the year to get enough signatures to put the treaty into effect. Just this month, Ireland, Nigeria, Niue, and Saint Kitts and Nevis have signed up, bringing the total number on board to 44.

“We always aimed that we would be getting 50 in 2020.” She says. “And obviously COVID-19 has slowed down some processes, but we still think that there’s a really good chance that we can get the 50 ratifications needed this year. So we’re working very very hard on this.”

What about Japan?

But Japan remains one of the countries that’s yet to sign the treaty. Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has said every year at the memorial ceremonies that it’s Japan’s mission to, “realize a world without nuclear weapons.”

But Fihn wonders why the commitment hasn’t been backed up by action. “There is no leadership right now on nuclear disarmament from Japan’s side — rather the opposite,” she says. “Japan is going backwards as well and undermining its own resolutions that it’s supported for a long time ago, weakening language and documents.”


21DgN2TQlptWtiQF4GfWGphxXYKPNF2Tey4tbtpRJapanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo made another pledge this year that the country would commit to achieving a world without nuclear weapons.


“That’s very serious. And I think that’s an insult to the survivors — to the hibakusha,” Fihn says. “We really know the Japanese people want the government to sign the treaty.”

“It’s very often that we look at nuclear armed states as the problem, but we have to recognize that the nuclear-allied states, like Japan for example, are protecting them. They are standing in a circle around them and protecting nuclear weapons. Until those countries stop doing that, it’s going to be very hard to convince the nuclear armed states.”

“How am I going to convince North Korea, the United States and Russia to disarm, if Japan cannot say that nuclear weapons should be illegal?”

Nuclear war ‘like the coronavirus’

Fihn says the coronavirus pandemic is proof that a global emergency could happen anytime. “Health experts have warned about this, and they have been preparing, thinking about it,” she says. “Yet people have been surprised that it happened. It’s the same thing with nuclear weapons. We don’t know when, we don’t know how exactly, but experts say it’s going to happen.”

She warns that nuclear weapons will be far more lethal than the coronavirus. “What we have to do with nuclear weapons — there’s no mitigating it once it happens.” she says. “When we feel the consequences, when the bombs are starting to fall on cities again, then it’s going to be too late to prevent it.”

Nuclear weapons don’t protect us

Fihn says the ongoing pandemic further highlights why governments should be investing in people, not weapons. “This pandemic has shown us where the threats to our security are and how we can’t absorb these things with nuclear weapons,” she says. “Nuclear armed states spend 73 billion dollars on nuclear weapons. Just imagine how many ventilators, doctors, nurses ICU, beds we can have… how many vaccinations we could develop.”

Listen to the hibakusha

She credits atomic bomb survivors for helping spread the message of a nuclear-free world. But she says their time is running out: “Given that it’s probably one of the last milestones where we will still have survivors who are able to speak about it in the first person. I really do think that it’s up to us to use this moment as much as possible to share their stories.”

For the first time, ICAN organized online tours of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb museums this year.

Fihn ended our interview with a message for the hibakusha. “Thank you for doing the incredibly difficult work of sharing your very traumatic experiences so that we can survive, and we can prevent it from happening again,” she says. “ICAN and the millions of people that support us are pledging to take action. We are going to honor the hibakusha, not through words, but through action to eliminate nuclear weapons.”


September 1, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Abe snubs head of Nobel-winning no-nukes group

Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, and Akira Kawasaki, a member of the group’s international steering committee, place a wreath at the Cenotaph for A-bomb Victims in Hiroshima on Monday.
HIROSHIMA – The leader of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which won last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, has been denied a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the nongovernmental organization Peace Boat said Monday.
ICAN has asked the Japanese government twice since late December to arrange a meeting between Abe and Executive Director Beatrice Fihn during her visit to Japan, but the Foreign Ministry declined the requests, citing scheduling conflicts, according to Peace Boat, a major steering group member of the Geneva-based organization.
Expressing disappointment over failing to meet Abe on her first visit to Japan, Fihn said in Hiroshima that she wanted to talk with him about how the world can avoid devastation of the type inflicted on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Fihn said she hopes to meet with the prime minister at the next opportunity.
Atomic-bomb survivors also expressed disappointment.
“Does Prime Minister Abe understand the significance of ICAN winning the Noble Peace Prize? It is very regrettable to feel this difference of attitudes between the government and atomic-bomb survivors,” said Hiroko Kishida, a 77-year-old hibakusha in Hiroshima.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference in Tokyo that ICAN’s requests were declined “due to a conflict of schedule. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Fihn arrived in Japan on Friday. After visiting Nagasaki through Sunday, she moved on to Hiroshima and was scheduled to hold discussions with Diet members in Tokyo on Tuesday before leaving Japan on Thursday.
Abe departed Japan on Friday for a six-nation European tour and is scheduled to return home Wednesday.
ICAN, founded in 2007, is a coalition of NGOs that involves about 470 groups from more than 100 countries.

January 16, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

ICAN chief calls on Japan to join treaty banning nuclear weapons

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NAGASAKI (Kyodo) — The leader of the antinuclear group International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which won last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, on Saturday called on Japan to take part in the treaty banning nuclear weapons.
In a keynote speech at a symposium in Nagasaki, one of two atomic-bombed cities, ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn criticized the Japanese government for not joining the treaty banning nuclear weapons, adopted by 122 U.N. members in July.
“The Japanese government should know better than any other nation the consequences of nuclear weapons, yet Tokyo is happy to live under the umbrella of U.S. nuclear protection, and has not joined the treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons,” Fihn said. “Is your government okay with repeating the evil that was done to Nagasaki and Hiroshima to other cities?”
Japan sat out the treaty negotiations, as did the world’s nuclear-armed countries and others relying on the deterrence of the U.S. nuclear umbrella.
Japan remains the only country to have sustained wartime atomic bombings, over 72 years after the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and of Nagasaki three days later.
Fihn said as long as the Japanese government believes in the effect of deterrence from the U.S. nuclear umbrella, it means encouraging nuclear proliferation and along with other nations living under the protection of nuclear alliances, it is moving the world closer toward the eventual use of nuclear weapons.
“It is unacceptable to be a willing participant in this nuclear umbrella,” she said.
The executive director of the international group campaigning for a total ban on nuclear weapons, meanwhile, applauded atomic bomb survivors, or hibakusha, for their efforts to speak out not to repeat the tragedy.
“The nuclear ban treaty would not exist without the hibakusha,” she said.
At a panel discussion held after the speech, Nobuharu Imanishi, director of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Arms Control and Disarmament Division, said Japan is facing a “severe security environment” given North Korea’s nuclear and missile development.
“Joining the treaty would damage the legitimacy of nuclear deterrence provided by the United States,” he said.
In responding to his remarks, Fihn called on symposium visitors to put more pressure on politicians through grassroots activities to have them change the nuclear policy.
She has requested that the Japanese government set up a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during her stay in Japan.
Asked at a press conference about what she would like to tell the prime minister if she can meet him, Fihn said she wants to ask Abe to show leadership in the movement for nuclear disarmament as the leader of the only country to have been attacked with nuclear weapons.
Abe is currently on a six-nation European tour through Wednesday.

January 16, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment