Japan, the Only Nation to Suffer a Nuclear Attack, Fails to Sign Anti-nuclear Treaty

August 10th, 2021 - by Manhattan Project for a Nuclear-Free World & Jake Sturmer and Yumi Asada / Australian Broadcasting Corp

A Message from Kakuwaka Hiroshima, August 2021

Manhattan Project for a Nuclear-Free World

Japan, the Only Country to Experience a Nuclear Attack,
Refuses to Sign UN Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons

Jake Sturmer and Yumi Asada / Australian Broadcasting Corp

HIROSHIMA (January 21, 2021) — Hiroshi Harada was six years old when the United States dropped the world’s first nuclear weapon in war on the western Japanese city of Hiroshima.

“First there was a flash,” he said. 

“My father quickly covered my body without knowing what it was. We were facing down and there was a blast the next moment. 

“The ceilings, roof beam and walls fell on top of my father and he suffered serious injuries, but miraculously [he] survived the atomic bomb.”

Hiroshi lost consciousness, and when he woke he saw his home city on fire and in ruins.

“When I woke up and crawled out of the rubble, I couldn’t see anyone, but when I looked carefully … all the people who were around me had fallen to the ground. There were countless people who were unconscious or dead,” he said. 

“A fire was burning behind us and we had no way of rescuing them because we had to get out. We didn’t have the tools to save them.

“Those people were killed, burned to death in front of us.” 

This is just one of Hiroshi’s chilling, graphic memories of that day on August 6, 1945.

Approximately 80,000 people were killed as a direct result of the blast, and another 35,000 were injured. 

By the end of the year, another 60,000 would be dead from the effects of the fallout.

A second bomb dropped on the city of Nagasaki several days later killed at least 74,000 people. 

“It was hell, such an atrocious condition that you just can’t create, the worst ever,” Hiroshi said. 

“So it must never happen again.” 

Hiroshi is one of more than 100,000 hibakusha, the Japanese word for atomic bomb survivors.

“I thought we had to work very hard on making sure this would never be repeated,” he said.

Today, some of that hard work will be realised. But their own country will not be part of it. 

A New Nuclear Treaty Is Missing Signatures 

The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will come into effect, outlawing the development, testing, possession and use of nuclear weapons.

At the UN’s General Assembly last year, the 75th anniversary since the bombs were dropped, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said: “Hiroshima and Nagasaki must never be repeated.”

“With this resolve, Japan will spare no effort in realising a world free of nuclear weapons while firmly upholding the Three Non-Nuclear Principles,” he said.

But Japan, the only country to have suffered the horrors of nuclear weapons in war, voted against the treaty. 


Japan opted to back its current key ally, the United States, which dropped the bombs in the first place.

The US strongly opposes the new treaty and its allies including Australia voted against ratification.

None of the nuclear-armed states including Russia or China voted for the ban either, prompting criticism that its effect will be limited.

It was ratified by 50 countries late last year, and comes into effect today, and the US has continued to pressure countries to pull out of the treaty.

Both Australia and Japan support the goal of a world free from nuclear weapons. They say they just do not believe this treaty is the way to achieve it.

How Biden Changes the Nuclear State of Play 

Despite the hopes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors, it is unlikely the US will immediately change course given the nuclear challenges facing President Joe Biden.

North Korea has vowed to increase its atomic arsenal, a key nuclear weapons control pact with Russia is set to expire next month and negotiations on the future of the Iran Nuclear Deal all make for a confronting series of problems. 

But there is likely to be some progress, as President Biden pledged during his election campaign to narrow the role that nuclear weapons play, indicating their sole purpose should be to deter or respond to a nuclear attack.

It contrasts with the previous administration’s policy that warned the US could use nuclear weapons to respond to significant non-nuclear strategic attacks in extreme circumstances.

So where to next in the fight to get rid of nuclear weapons? It depends who you ask. 

Japan has pointed to an older agreement, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, as one that should serve as the key document to support.

Countries that support the treaty point to the fact that nuclear weapons have not been used in war since 1945 as evidence of its success.

But the Nobel Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) said that treaty did not go far enough.

“The Non-Proliferation Treaty was negotiated in the 1960s to try to stop the spread of nuclear weapons,” said Tim Wright from ICAN. 

“There was also a general commitment by some of the nuclear-armed states at the time to work towards nuclear disarmament, but that commitment to disarm hasn’t been fulfilled.” 

The treaty does not establish a comprehensive ban on nuclear weapons, according to ICAN. 

“And so, the nuclear armed states have argued that they can legitimately retain their weapons under that treaty,” Mr Wright said.

Why Australia Opted Out of the Treaty 

As allies of the United States, Australia and Japan both receive the protection of America’s nuclear weapons. 

Some defence experts argue it could jeopardise the alliances if they were to make a stand and support the nuclear weapons ban.

ICAN said that Australia was one of the most active countries in trying to prevent the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons from being negotiated.

“It convened a group of countries that were allies to the US to try to stall the negotiations to stop the UN from adopting a resolution to start the negotiations,” Mr Wright said

“And it did so, no doubt… in order to satisfy its ally, the United States, who believed that this treaty would fundamentally limit its ability to maintain an arsenal of nuclear weapons.”

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade did not directly address the criticism from ICAN and said in a statement that they believed the ban would be ineffective.

“Our long-held focus is on progressing nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament through a progressive, practical approach that engages all states, especially nuclear weapon states, in the process,” a spokesperson said.

“This position acknowledges the realities of the international security environment; builds trust between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states; and acknowledges the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as the cornerstone of the disarmament and non-proliferation system.”

Japan said it would continue to make efforts in building bridges among countries with different views and contribute actively to discussions in the international community for the advancement of nuclear disarmament.

“There exists an apparent divergence of views on how best to advance nuclear disarmament,” Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. 

Ageing Hiroshima Survivors Vow to Keep Fighting 

A Japanese Foreign Ministry official said the Government was aware of the support for the ban from survivors in Japan and that it gave great respects to their efforts to convey the realities of the devastation and humanitarian consequences.

It vowed to continue “to make efforts to garner understanding and support of the government’s position from the public.”

For some survivors, that approach is difficult to accept. For those who have witnessed the horrors of nuclear weapons, time is running out for them to continue to share their powerful stories.

The average age of survivors is now into the 80s and because of COVID-19 lectures from hibakusha at the local museum have fallen by 90 percent.

Hiroko Hatakeyama, 83, was a few kilometres from the hypocentre and witnessed her young relatives die from the effects of the bomb. 

She has been fighting to abolish nuclear weapons for more than 60 years and wants to see more leadership from her Government and support from Australia’s.

“Japan suffered from the nuclear attack, Japan is the only country that can raise the voices of hibakusha” she said.

“I think the survivors have a duty to appeal until they die. The survivors experienced it so we need to convey the experiences until we die.”

Jake Sturmer in ABC’s North Asia correspondent. Yumi Asada reports form Hiroshima.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Japan Fails to Endorse Nuclear Prohibition Treaty

International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons

GENEVA, Switzerland (August 2021) — Japan has not yet signed or ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

It supports the retention and potential use of US nuclear weapons on its behalf, as indicated in various policy statements, including the country’s national security strategy of 2013, which states that “the extended deterrence of the US, with nuclear deterrence at its core, is indispensable [to Japan]”.

Nuclear Bombings
Japan is the only country to have suffered the wartime use of nuclear weapons. In the final days of World War II, the United States detonated two atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing more than 200,000 people instantly or within a few months of the attacks.

Many thousands more have died in the years following the attacks from illnesses caused by their exposure to radiation from the bombs. Almost all of the victims were civilians.

National Position
Japan has consistently voted against an annual UN General Assembly resolution since 2018 that welcomes the adoption of the treaty and calls upon all states to sign, ratify, or accede to it “at the earliest possible date”.

The government has indicated that it does not intend to sign or ratify the treaty, despite significant public pressure on it to do so.

Political Developments
In October 2020, the Komeito political party, which forms part of the coalition government, submitted an “urgent proposal” to the minister of foreign affairs, Toshimitsu Motegi, encouraging the government to reassess its position on the treaty and to participate as an observer in the first meeting of states parties, to be held within 12 months of the treaty’s entry into force on 22 January 2021.

The government responded that it had not yet reached a decision on whether to participate in the meeting and would wait to receive further details.

The former Japanese prime minister Hatoyama Yukio, former foreign minister Tanaka Makiko, and former defence minister Tanaka Naoki signed an open letter in September 2020 calling on current leaders to “show courage and boldness – and join the treaty”.

Public Opinion
An academic survey conducted in 2019 found that 75 percent of Japanese people believe that their country should join the treaty, with only 17.7 percent of opposed and 7.3 percent undecided. It also found that the government’s arguments against joining the treaty have little effect on public opinion.

A separate poll conducted by Japan’s national broadcaster, NHK, in 2019 found that 66 percent of Japanese people believe that their country should join the treaty, with 17 percent opposed to joining and the remainder undecided.

The Japanese government’s unwillingness to date to support the treaty has angered many of the remaining survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, known as hibakusha, who have said that they feel betrayed by the government.

Many Japanese cities, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki, have called on the Japanese government to sign and ratify the treaty.

The mayor of Nagasaki, Tomihisa Taue, said in August 2017, at a ceremony to mark the atomic bombing of his city, that the adoption of the treaty a month earlier “was a moment when all the efforts of the hibakusha over the years finally took shape”.

In August 2019, on the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the mayor of that city, Kazumi Matsui, called on “the government of the only country to experience a nuclear weapon in war to accede to the hibakusha’s request that the [treaty] be signed and ratified”.

Treaty Negotiations
Japan did not formally participate in the negotiation of the treaty at the United Nations in New York in 2017 and thus did not vote on its adoption. However, it attended the opening session of the negotiations to explain its decision not to participate. It said that “it would be difficult for Japan to participate in this conference in a constructive manner and in good faith”.

In 2016, Japan voted against the UN General Assembly resolution that established the formal mandate for states to commence negotiations on “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.

Many media outlets and civil society groups in Japan criticised the government for opposing the negotiations. The Japan Times, for example, argued that the decision “contradicts the nation’s long-standing call for the elimination of [nuclear] weapons as the sole country to have suffered nuclear attacks”.

In February 2017, a month before the commencement of the treaty negotiations at the United Nations, the US president, Donald Trump, and the then-prime minister of Japan, Abe Shinzō, issued a joint statement declaring that “[t]he US commitment to defend Japan through the full range of US military capabilities, both nuclear and conventional, is unwavering”.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.