Photo/IllutrationPrime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, receives a petition from Koichi Kawano, chairman of the Hibakusha liaison council of the Nagasaki prefectural peace movement center, in Nagasaki on Aug. 9. (Azumi Fukuoka)

NAGASAKI--Atomic bomb survivor Koichi Kawano put Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the spot by asking him sternly, “What country’s prime minister are you? Are you going to abandon us?”

And it didn't stop there.

Kawano, 77, then told Abe, “Now is the time for our country and you (the prime minister) to take the initiative toward the eradication of nuclear weapons from the world.”

His unusual language was prompted by Tokyo's refusal to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted at the United Nations in July.

Kawano was among the hibakusha atomic bomb survivors who met with Abe on Aug. 9 as Nagasaki marked the 72nd anniversary of its atomic bombing.

Kawano hit upon the idea of straight-talking with Abe several days ago in light of Japan's reliance on the U.S. “nuclear umbrella.”

The chairman of the hibakusha liaison council of the Nagasaki prefectural peace movement center wrote the questions on a piece of paper on the morning of Aug. 9.

A petition compiled by five hibakusha groups in Nagasaki and submitted to Abe also read, “It is extremely regrettable that (when the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty was adopted at the United Nations), representatives of Japan, the only country that suffered atomic bombings in a war, were not there. We, hibakusha in Nagasaki, strongly protest against the government with burning anger.”

In the ceremony held prior to the meeting to mark the 72nd anniversary, Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue also said in the city’s Peace Declaration, “I urge the Japanese government to reconsider the policy of relying on the nuclear umbrella.” Hibakusha applauded the declaration.

In his speech at the ceremony, however, Abe did not refer to the treaty, which no nuclear-weapon states have signed. He only said, “The participation of both nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states is necessary to realize ‘a world free from nuclear weapons.’ Our country will lead the international community by lobbying both sides.”

He took the same position in the meeting with the representatives of hibakusha.

Afterward, Kawano said, “I had expected that (the prime minister) would say something (on the treaty). But I was left disappointed.”

Shigemitsu Tanaka, 76, vice chairman of the council of atomic bomb sufferers in Nagasaki, complained about the way in which government officials always repeat the same platitudes.

“They could have brought a tape recorder with them,” he said.

Tamashii Honda, 73, chairman of the association of bereaved families of atomic bomb victims in Nagasaki, said, “Japan should talk to the United States in a forceful manner.”

(This article was written by Ai Tanabe, Yuki Kubota and Shohei Okada.)