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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Marshall Islands, nuke test victim call for nonproliferation

Staff writer

With the effects of the U.S. atomic tests in the Pacific still lingering, the Marshall Islands' ambassador to Japan and a Japanese victim of a 1954 hydrogen bomb test recently called for a nuclear-free world.

News photo News photo
Matashichi Oishi Phillip K. Kabua

"The overall results of the U.S. nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands have had a lingering and devastating effect on the people, their plants and their food crops," Phillip K. Kabua, ambassador of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, said in a speech Saturday in Tokyo.

The islands were the site of 67 U.S. nuclear tests between 1946 and 1958.

The soil is contaminated and plants and small animals have disappeared, the ambassador said. "Yet, the affected people and their offspring or children who may have inherited some radiological-related diseases from their parents stand firm that some day peace and justice will prevail."

Kabua urged world leaders to abandon nuclear weapons and called for nonnuclear states to continue their nonproliferation efforts.

"We join hands with and highly extol those countries like Japan which have opted for a strong stand against the proliferation of nuclear weapons," the ambassador said.

"We strongly urge and exhort all those people and countries who have rejected and renounced nuclear proliferation to renew and strengthen their pledge against all production, development and use of such lethal weapons, in all their harmful and deadly forms," Kabua said.

Matashichi Oishi, 74, a former fisherman exposed to radiation during the U.S. test on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, shared his experience as a survivor of the test.

"When I saw the light, I was really surprised," said Oishi, one of the 23 crew members of the Fukuryu Maru No. 5 who were showered with radioactive ash in the test.

A large amount of ash fell on the Fukuryu Maru. It was as white as snow and fell on the crew's heads, got into their eyes, their underwear and caused smarting pains, Oishi recalled.

Although the ash was not hot and was odorless, it contained very strong radiation — about the same amount that could be detected within an 800 meter radius of the 1945 Hiroshima atomic bomb explosion, he said.

The ship's crew experienced dizziness, headaches, nausea and diarrhea from the evening of that day, and a week later their hair started falling out.

Oishi has since contracted radiation poisoning, hepatic cancer and hepatitis. Meanwhile, half of the crew members have already passed away, he said.

"Fishermen on a very ordinary tuna boat got involved, and continued to be troubled by the production of nuclear weapons — the most advanced lethal weapons."

Stressing that the same tragedy should never happen again, Oishi said: "I would like to tell world leaders that they should realize as soon as possible the invisible radioactive horrors the Bikini Atoll incident warned humankind of 54 years ago."

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