Hiroshima survivor calls for elimination of nuclear weapons

Setsuko Thurlow, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and survivor of the 1945 atomic bombing on Hiroshima, said Tuesday she is hoping to see the total elimination of nuclear weapons in her lifetime but is realistic of the challenge of a global prohibition.

“Maybe I won’t live long enough to see total elimination of nuclear weapons, but it would be nice if that would happen,” the 88-year-old activist said during a virtual conference hosted by ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

“I’m trying to be somewhat realistic, I don’t think I would last that long,” she added.

Thurlow was 13 years old when U.S. forces dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. She was rescued from being buried underneath the rubble of a collapsed building, but lost nine family members in the immediate aftermath of the explosion.

Approximately 80,000 people were killed instantly by the bomb’s blast, but the true toll of deaths and suffering is difficult to estimate. Approximately 140,000 people died by the end of 1945 from the attack on Hiroshima and 74,000 more in the bombing on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, but countless others suffered years of health issues including leukemia, cancer and effects from radiation poisoning.

Thurlow has dedicated her life to speaking out about the human toll of nuclear weapons and advocating for their prohibition. The organization she works with, ICAN, was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for its efforts promoting the prohibition of nuclear weapons.

“We have to share our experience — what we saw, what we did, what we heard, everything has to be shared with the people of the world so they will know how to prevent this happening again,” she said.

“It became our goal to warn the world about the danger of the nuclear war. This is what survivors have been doing over 70 years.”

Her remarks came on the third anniversary of the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations. The treaty was adopted by a vote of 122 nations and has since garnered signatures from more than 80 countries.

“This is a special day, exactly three years ago we had that incredible, unbelievable moment at the United Nations,” she said of the treaty’s adoption. “I just kept pouring tears, my mind was full of images of all those people who perished in Hiroshima.”

Yet the U.S., along with the U.K., France, Russia and China — recognized as legitimate nuclear-weapons states under the 1970 treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons — are not signatories to the 2017 treaty.

In a joint statement at the time, the U.S., U.K. and France said the treaty disregarded “the realities of the international security environment” and said the countries had no intention “to sign, ratify or ever become party to it.”

The anniversary of the treaty comes amid increased tension among the international community in how best to confront global nuclear military threats, in particular from Iran and North Korea.

Iranian nuclear sites in recent days have come under mysterious attacks — reportedly suspected to be an Israeli military operation — that have caused significant damage to their facilities. 

The attacks followed recent reports by the U.N. that Tehran has increasingly violated the terms of the 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, following President Trump’s withdrawal from the deal in 2018 and reimposition of punishing sanctions.

And in North Korea, officials in Pyongyang have spoken out against any talks with the U.S. over their nuclear weapons program after two inconclusive summits between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, and a brief meeting with the two men at the demilitarized zone with South Korea in 2019.

“Explicitly speaking once again, we have no intention to sit face to face with the United States,” Kwon Jong Gun, director general for U.S. affairs at North Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement to state-owned media, Reuters reported

Tags Donald Trump Hiroshima Nuclear weapons Setsuko Thurlow

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