Thursday 29 September 2016

Nagasaki survivor slams PM over military plans

Martin Foster Tokyo

Published 10/08/2015 | 02:30

A woman cries as she prays at the Peace Park before the 70th anniversary of the Nagasaki atomic bombing in Nagasaki, Japan
A woman cries as she prays at the Peace Park before the 70th anniversary of the Nagasaki atomic bombing in Nagasaki, Japan

A survivor of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki has used the event's 70th anniversary to warn the Japanese prime minister that changes to the country's pacifist constitution will lead Japan "back to the wartime period".

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Attending a ceremony in Nagasaki marking the bombing that claimed tens of thousands of lives in the final stages of the Second World War, 86-year-old Sumiteru Taniguchi warned that new legislation introduced by prime minister Shinzo Abe's government goes against the wishes of the survivors.

"We cannot accept this," he said. "The security bills which the government is trying to push through would jeopardise our long-time movement for nuclear abolition and hopes of the hibakusha (atom-bomb survivors).

"After the war, the constitution was enacted in which Japan promised to the world that it would never wage war or take up weapons again.

"However, the government is about to bring Japan back to the wartime period," he said.

The bill, passed in May by Japan's lower house of parliament, will allow Japanese troops to fight outside Japan for the first time since 1945. It is widely expected to become law.

The Japanese government line is that the constitution and its all-important Article Nine - under which Japan renounced war as a means of resolving international disputes - have merely been "reinterpreted", and not altered. However, Mr Abe's nationalist stance on the Japanese military appears to be increasingly alienating victims of the atomic bombs, along with Japan's neighbours.

At a ceremony marking the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing on Thursday, Mr Abe was criticised for failing to mention Japan's three long-held non-nuclear principles: not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons on Japanese territory.

Speaking yesterday, Tomihisa Taue, Nagasaki's mayor, appeared to criticise that omission.

"There is a burgeoning anxiety and concern that the oath etched upon our hearts 70 years ago, the peaceful ideal of the Japanese constitution, might be undermined," said Mr Taue.

"I demand that the government and parliament (hear) these anxieties and concerns, mobilise their intelligence and engage in serious deliberations in a sincere manner." His speech received wide applause, but Mr Abe, who also attended the Nagasaki ceremony, let nothing slip as cameras turned to him.

In his own speech later, Mr Abe said: "As the only country attacked with an atomic bomb in war, I am renewing our determination to lead the global effort of nuclear disarmament, to create a world without such weapons."

Mr Abe's activities have unsettled neighbouring countries, including China, which bore the brunt of Japanese military aggression in the Second World War, and those on the Korean peninsula, which were colonised by Japan and officially annexed from 1910.

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