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Japan, Australia slammed for no show at nuke ban talks

A Japanese atomic bomb survivor and an Aboriginal Australian who
lived through multiple nuclear tests slammed their respective
governments Tuesday for not participating in U.N. negotiations on a
treaty to ban nuclear weapons.

"I especially condemn the Japanese government's inability to
fully commit to these negotiations," said Setsuko Thurlow, who lived
through the atomic bomb blast on Aug. 6, 1945, that destroyed her
hometown of Hiroshima.

"Indeed, yesterday morning the Japanese government official's
speech deepened hibakusha's feelings of being continuously betrayed
and abandoned by their own country," she said in her speech during a
session of the negotiations, referring to the Japanese terms used for
the atomic bomb survivors.

Thurlow referenced remarks made Monday by Japan's disarmament
ambassador Nobushige Takamizawa, who explained that Tokyo would not
take part in the talks that got under way at U.N. headquarters on
Monday.

Although Japan has said it wants a nuclear-weapon-free world, it
had been vague in the lead-up to the conference about whether it
would join the U.N. talks, reflecting its reliance on the U.S.
nuclear deterrent for protection.

"Instead, they (the Japanese government) should take an
independent position, which responds to the will of the Japanese
people," Thurlow stated.

The five nuclear weapon states -- Britain, China, France, Russia
and the United States -- which are also permanent members of the U.N.
Security Council, have abstained from the conference, which aims to
hammer out a landmark treaty that would outlaw nuclear weapons for
the first time ever.

Thurlow called on the approximately 115 countries that are
participating in the conference "to establish a clear new
international standard to declare in no uncertain terms that nuclear
weapons are illegitimate, immoral and illegal."

Speaking after Thurlow was Sue Coleman Haseldine, who described
how as a small child she was impacted by the nuclear weapons testing
that the British secretly carried out in the remote area of Maralinga
beginning in the 1950s, which greatly impacted her and her family.

In addition to high incidence of cancer in that area, there are
currently efforts under way to set up nuclear waste dump sites which
pose more hazards to her community.

"Together we need to connect the past, present and future and
work towards a treaty to ban all nuclear weapons so there will be no
new victims under a mushroom cloud," she said in her speech. "The
treaty should acknowledge the permanent damage done to people, land
and culture across generations and particularly for indigenous people
worldwide."

"I am actually ashamed of (the Australian government)" for not
attending the conference, she told Kyodo News. She stressed the
government had a moral responsibility to participate in light of the
testing, adding that her country is a producer of uranium used for
atomic bombs.

Australia, like Japan, operates under the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

Meanwhile, Mexico's Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva,
Jorge Lomonaco, whose country -- along with Austria, Brazil, Ireland,
Nigeria and South Africa -- has led the treaty efforts, said the
survivors' remarks were invaluable to the conference.

"It was incredibly moving and a very important reminder of why
we are here," he told Kyodo News. "We are here for them and because
of them and we owe it to them."

Canadian Member of Parliament, Linda Duncan, who was attending
the conference as a co-chair of Parliamentarians for Nuclear
Disarmament, was particularly struck by Thurlow's speech.

"I think it is pretty clear that the most powerful voice we have
heard over these two days is hers," she said.

Duncan also expressed disappointment in her country for not
participating and said she has asked Thurlow, who lives in Canada, to
meet with interested politicians in the near future.

The first session of the negotiations ends Friday and a second
segment will again be held in New York beginning in mid-June with the
hope that a treaty will be hammered out by July. (March 28)


A paper crane is placed in front of the empty seat of Japan during a conference to negotiate a treaty to ban nuclear weapons at the U.N. headquarters in New York on March 28, 2017. Japan has refrained from joining the talks on the ground that they are unrealistic without the participation of major nuclear weapon states.