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More than half of local gov’t chiefs sign petition supporting anti-nuke treaty

More than 50 percent of local government chiefs have now signed a petition demanding the enactment of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, it has emerged.

The petition, known as the “Hibakusha appeal,” has been running for less than two years. The document is still regarded by its supporters as being necessary, even though the anti-nuke treaty was adopted in July 2017. This is because the treaty has not yet come into effect, and nuclear nations as well as countries such as Japan under the U.S. nuclear umbrella have not signed the treaty.


“A huge surge is taking place,” says the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo), which has been playing a pivotal role in gathering signatures for the petition.


However, Nihon Hidankyo does not want to stop at the current level of signatures. It is continuing to appeal strongly to people in both Japan and overseas — a campaign that has been helped by the awarding of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).


The Hibakusha appeal started in April 2016. It got underway after ex-Nihon Hidankyo co-chair Sumiteru Taniguchi, who passed away in August 2017 at the age of 88, and 86-year-old Canada resident Setsuko Thurlow, who gave a speech at the December 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, appealed to atomic bomb survivors in Japan and overseas.


The campaign continues to ask for signatures, and also requests that the Japanese government commit to the anti-nuke treaty. In October 2017, a summarized list of about 5.15 million signatories was submitted to the United Nations.


According to a summary compiled by Nihon Hidankyo, the chiefs of 977 out of 1,788 local governments — 54.64 percent — including 20 governors, had signed the petition as of Dec. 23, 2017. If ex-chiefs who stepped down after signing are counted as well, then the figure stands at 1,013 signatories.


Signatories include the heads of Hiroshima and Nagasaki prefectural and municipal governments, as well as the local government chief of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, which was affected by the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.


Other chiefs who have signed the petition are the local government head of Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture — in which there are many nuclear power-related facilities — as well as all prefectural and municipal heads in Nagano and Kagawa prefectures.


Some chiefs have added messages. Tadanao Akechi, mayor of Asahi, Chiba Prefecture, wrote, “I want world leaders to take the importance of life seriously,” while Takenori Tomozane, mayor of Akaiwa, Okayama Prefecture, wrote, “It must not be repeated!! The biggest mistake of humankind!!”


The signature-collecting campaign is being carried out mainly by 44 domestic organizations that participate in ICAN, including the nongovernmental organization Peace Boat, as well as regional liaison councils set up in 24 prefectures. The movement has also spread to 42 countries including the U.S. and India.


“If local government heads sign the petition, then local residents’ awareness of the issue will increase. Using the petition as something that represents the opinion of the majority, we’d like to urge the Japanese government, then international society, to commit to the treaty,” says Nihon Hidankyo Secretary-General Sueichi Kido.


The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which forbids the manufacture and use of nuclear weapons as well as intimidation based on the theory of nuclear deterrence, was adopted after more than 60 percent of U.N. members agreed on the treaty, but so far, only about 60 countries have signed the treaty.

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