Activists urge Japan's participation in nuclear weapons ban treaty

Activists urged Japan on Saturday to join a U.N. treaty banning nuclear weapons, as they celebrated the coming into force of the 52-member pact as a boost for the global disarmament movement.
"The next step will be to bring the Japanese government on board with the treaty," Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said during an online event hosted by Japanese nongovernmental organization Peace Boat.
"I really encourage you to use this new treaty to put more pressure on your government," Fihn said a day after the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons came into force.
The launch of the treaty, however, was marred by the absence of nuclear weapons states as well as Japan, the only country to have suffered the devastation of atomic bombings.
Speaking at the event, Setsuko Thurlow, campaigner and atomic bomb survivor, made a similar request to Japan, saying Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga must "display responsible leadership" on nuclear disarmament.
Participants also congratulated the numerous atomic bomb survivors, or hibakusha, who had campaigned over the years for nuclear disarmament.
"The treaty is first and foremost a gift to the hibakusha," said Izumi Nakamitsu, U.N. undersecretary general and high representative for disarmament affairs, in a video message. "It is proof of their determination."
Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said, "We must not forget that this is the beginning, not the end, of our efforts."
In a separate online conference, former Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba advocated the creation of a Northeast Asian nuclear free zone involving China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Russia and the United States as a way of achieving global nuclear disarmament.
"Japan should stop giving so much consideration to the United States and encourage dialogue among countries involved," Akiba said, in reference to Tokyo's security ally and a major nuclear power.
Koichi Kawano, chairman of the Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs, underscored the goal of abolishing all nuclear weapons.
"We should not stop our feet and be satisfied with the treaty's enforcement," Kawano said.

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