OSLO - An atomic bomb survivor who played a role in the award of this year's Nobel Peace Prize to a group campaigning to ban nuclear weapons urged North Korea and the United States on Saturday -- ahead of the prize awarding ceremony in Oslo -- to never resort to using nuclear weapons.
Setsuko Thurlow, 85, who survived the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and now lives in Canada, also criticized the Japanese government for not joining the landmark nuclear weapons ban treaty promoted by the prize winner, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.
Amid the heightening tension between Washington and Pyongyang, Thurlow said at a press conference in Oslo: "I repeatedly and strongly urge the leaders (of the United States and North Korea) never to use nuclear weapons," and urged them to negotiate without issuing military threats.
She also said Japan has "a moral responsibility," as the only country to have suffered atomic bomb attacks, to work to eliminate nuclear weapons. Thus it was "unfortunate," she said, that the government of Japan has not joined the U.N. treaty despite being prodded to do so by atomic bomb survivors and its citizens.
ICAN won this year's peace prize for work that led to the adoption in July of the U.N. treaty outlawing nuclear weapons. But Japan did not vote in support, likely due to its reliance on the protection provided by the U.S. nuclear deterrent.
Thurlow said that the atomic bombings were "unacceptable human suffering," and highlighted the need to convey the memories of atomic bomb survivors, or hibakusha, so as not to repeat their tragedy.
Japan is the only country ever to be attacked with a nuclear weapon. The United States dropped a first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and a second on Nagasaki three days later, during the final stages of World War II.
ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn and Thurlow are expected to make speeches at the ceremony on Sunday. Thurlow said she will give an account of the horrors in Hiroshima in her speech.
Norwegian state broadcaster NRK reported that the Russian and Chinese ambassadors to Norway will not attend the award ceremony. That means no ambassador from any of the five major nuclear powers will be there as the United States, Britain and France also are not sending their ambassadors.
Normally most ambassadors to Norway attend the annual event. But the nuclear powers are believed to be boycotting the peace prize ceremony due to the nuclear weapons ban treaty promoted by ICAN.
Earlier in the day, seeds from trees that survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima were donated to a botanic garden in Oslo at an event attended by Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui and Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue. The seeds were planted by the mayors and University of Oslo chief Svein Stolen in a flower pot.
"I hope the seeds will be rooted as a symbol of peace and shared widely and for a long period of time," said Matsui.
Terumi Tanaka, 85, and Toshiki Fujimori, 73, survivors of the atomic bombings and senior officials of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Suffers Organizations, as well as Matsui, Taue and Akira Kawasaki, an ICAN international steering committee member, are all expected to attend Sunday's ceremony.