At least five groups of atomic bomb survivors (Hibakusha) have signed a protest letter to the US Embassy in Tokyo warning President Donald Trump against withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, according to Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
Hibakusha is a Japanese term used for surviving victims of the 1945 US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed at least 129,000 people and left countless more blind or suffering from the effects of radiation poisoning.
In the letter, the Hibakusha survivors specifically cautioned that if Washington leaves the INF Treaty, "global momentum for nuclear disarmament will fade away while the likelihood of a nuclear war will rise."
Referring to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, due to enter force next year, the atomic bomb survivors urged Trump "not to turn the clock back."
The letter was issued as Koichi Kawano, chairman of the Hibakusha Liaison Council of the Nagasaki Prefectural Peace Movement Center, berated Trump for his plans to pull out of the INF Treaty.
"Successive US Presidents had meetings with their Soviet and Russian counterparts, even if they were poles apart on issues. But President Trump has no such attitude, and we are getting more desperate and feel anxious," the 78-year-old told a news conference held at the Nagasaki city government office.
He was echoed by 81-year-old Minoru Moriuchi, vice chairman of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council, who argued that apart from the US's possible withdrawal from the INF Treaty, Tokyo and ordinary Japanese turning a blind eye to the issue also poses a threat to world peace.
"Once a nuclear war occurs, it could imperil all of humanity. But now only hibakusha are raising our voices against the move. I'm bitterly frustrated that the Japanese government and people are doing nothing against it," Moriuchi pointed out.
Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue, for his part, noted that he urged Russia and the US "to negotiate calmly and not to turn back the clock to the Cold War era."
On Monday, Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said that US Secretary of Defense James Mattis' position on a possible US exit from INF Treaty is similar to President Donald Trump's stance on the matter.
Over the past few years, Russia and the US have repeatedly accused each other of violating the treaty, which was signed by the USSR and the US back in 1987.
The document stipulates the elimination of nuclear and conventional missiles and their launchers with ranges of 500–1,000 kilometers (310–620 miles) and 1,000–5,500 kilometers (620–3,420 miles).