Hiroshima A-bomb survivors express anger after U.K. announces raise in cap for nuclear warhead stockpile, damping down hopes for nuclear disarmament

by Kyosuke Mizukawa and Kana Kobayashi, Staff Writers

The British government announced, March 16 it would raise the ceiling on its nuclear warhead stockpile in its Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, which is the most comprehensive since the end of the Cold War. One day after the announcement, atomic bomb survivors of Hiroshima expressed their anger. The U.K. had been viewed as having the most positive attitude toward nuclear disarmament among the five major nuclear powers: The United States, Russia, the U.K., France and China. As the country was expected to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons first among the nuclear weapon states, survivors’ disappointment has been greater.

“This is a turnabout toward the expansion of nuclear armaments. I cannot suppress my anger,” said Toshiyuki Mimaki, 79, acting chair of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hiroshima Hidankyo, chaired by Sunao Tsuboi).

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.K. had 215 nuclear warheads, which is the smallest among the five major nuclear powers, as of January 2020. In 2010, the country decided to lower the cap to 180 by mid-2020s.

However, the country has completely changed its policy and announced that the cap will rise to 260. Kunihiko Sakuma, 76, chair of the other Hiroshima Prefectural Hidankyo, expressed his disappointment. “I wanted the country to lead other nuclear weapon states in terms of nuclear disarmament.”

Toshiko Tanaka, 82, a resident of Higashi Ward of Hiroshima, has been telling her experience of the atomic bombing in Japan and other countries. She said, “This is unforgivable.” She said that many citizens in Western countries support the nuclear ban treaty and added, “When the government of a nuclear weapon state goes in the wrong direction, citizens who seek the elimination of nuclear weapons must cooperate across national borders.”

Among the five major nuclear powers, the U.K. and the U.S. took part in the International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, which was held in Austria in 2014. The conference provided momentum for the establishment of the nuclear ban treaty. But the U.K. did not join the negotiations to establish the treaty conducted in 2017, turning its back on the treaty.

But some people, including members of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), an NGO, had hope and thought, “Among the five major nuclear weapon states, the U.K. is most likely to denuclearize itself and join the nuclear ban treaty.” Akira Kawasaki, 52, a member of the international steering committee of ICAN, said, “The U.K., among those five nations, was the exemplary nation in reducing nuclear warheads. This move is very disappointing and will promote a nuclear arms race.”

(Originally published on March 18, 2021)