Memories of dreadful suffering from atomic bombings must be preserved

The Yomiuri ShimbunIt is essential to hand down knowledge of the ravages of atomic bomb attacks to future generations and advance the promotion of disarmament. Making tenacious efforts in this respect is important for Japan as the only atom-bombed nation.

On Aug. 6, Hiroshima observes the 74th anniversary of the atomic bomb attack on the city. This year’s peace memorial ceremony will be attended by representatives from about 90 countries. On Aug. 9, Nagasaki will observe a similar anniversary.

This spring, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, a facility that collects documents related to the atomic bombing, renewed its exhibits for the first time in 28 years. The move was aimed at rearranging the standard route for viewing the exhibits, so visitors can take time to see the realities of the atomic bomb attack. The main feature of the exhibits is an emphasis on articles directly tied to victims, such as personal belongings of the deceased and photos, rather than artistic representations.

The atomic bombing devastated the city of Hiroshima. Its ferocity can be shown by such objects as steel frames for buildings that were bent by the bomb blast, and chunks of glass and iron that were melted by the intense heat and then hardened again.

In an exhibition room, there are such objects as a scorched tricycle and a lunch box. Exhibits also include a 2-year-old boy’s bloodstained underwear. A note attached to it quotes his mother as regretfully saying, “I wish I had allowed him to drink water, as he wanted it so much.”

People’s day-to-day lives were instantly destroyed. Exhibits focus on the lives of particular individuals, bringing into relief the appalling damage caused by the bombing. Messages conveyed by more than 500 documents and other materials displayed there bear grave significance.

Japan’s role as bridge

The average age of surviving victims now exceeds 82. More than a few victims feel there is a limit to what they can do through their activities of bearing oral witness to the bombing.

It is necessary to improve and expand support measures aimed at reducing the burdens borne by victims who can recount their sufferings, such as taking them to and from venues for lecture meetings. Further efforts should also be made to preserve their testimonies on video and in writing.

There has been an increase in the number of foreign visitors to the A-bombed sites year after year. It is necessary to ensure they are better handled through multilingual services, thereby helping the visitors to understand the ravages of atomic bombings. It is important to convey our hope for peace to many parts of the world.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which took effect half a century ago, acknowledges the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia as nuclear-weapon states, while obliging them to promote arms reduction. The treaty prevents other NPT countries from using their nuclear technology for military purposes, through inspections and other means.

However, the United States and Russia are stepping back from their disarmament efforts. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces(INF) treaty expired this month.

A session of the NPT Review Meeting will be held next year. The conference aims to examine the present situation facing NPT management, but advance preparations for the conference are going through difficulties. To preserve the NPT regime, the countries with nuclear weapons must fulfill their responsibilities.

Although some nations without nuclear weapons are seeking to ensure that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons takes effect, that treaty cannot be described as realistic. Given that the nuclear powers cannot be expected to enter the treaty, it will only serve to widen a rift within the international community.

The treaty prohibits the production, possession and use of nuclear arms. The security environment of each nation is not given consideration under the treaty, which will greatly affect their deterrence.

Japan must serve as a bridge between the nations with and without nuclear weapons, and facilitate an environment for constructive discussions on arms reduction.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 6, 2019)Speech


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