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U.N. nuke ban treaty to take effect in Jan., Japan in dilemma

U.N. nuke ban treaty to take effect in Jan., Japan in dilemma

The United Nations said Saturday that 50 countries have ratified a U.N. treaty banning nuclear weapons, paving the way for its entry into force on Jan. 22, a move praised by anti-nuclear activists but opposed by the United States and other nuclear powers. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, however, puts on the spot Japan and other countries that shelter under the nuclear umbrella of the United States. U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres commended the 50 countries and saluted "the work of civil society, which has been instrumental in facilitating the negotiation and ratification of the treaty." Guterres said the treaty's entry into force "is a tribute to the survivors of nuclear explosions and tests," and "represents a meaningful commitment toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons," according to U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric. The pact, which was adopted in 2017, will become the first international norm outlawing the development, testing, possession and use of nuclear weapons. People celebrate in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, western Japan, on Oct. 25, 2020, after the ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by 50 countries, paving the way for its entry into force on Jan. 22. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo It will enter into force 90 days after it has been ratified by at least 50 countries and regions. Honduras was the latest country to complete the ratification procedure. Despite calls from atomic bomb survivors and anti-nuclear activists for Japan to ratify the treaty, Japanese ruling and opposition party lawmakers expressed mixed feelings over the pact. "We share the idea (behind the treaty), but we find it very unrealistic" in ridding nuclear states of their arsenals, Masahiko Shibayama, acting secretary general of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, said Sunday on an NHK program in Tokyo. Tetsuro Fukuyama, secretary general of the main opposition the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said, "It is extremely difficult to keep a balance between how to handle the nuclear umbrella and security in Asia, including the situation in North Korea." Other opposition parties welcomed developments over the nuclear ban treaty, with the Japanese Communist Party saying it marked a step forward toward the abolition of nuclear weapons. Nongovernmental organizations hailed the 50th ratification of the treaty, as well. "With the treaty now ready to enter into force, everything will change, but our work is not done," the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, known as ICAN, said, pledging to "make sure the treaty lives up to its full potential." Although the treaty will not be able to legally require nuclear power states to abolish their arsenals, the launch of the treaty is likely to spur momentum toward reducing stockpiles. But some experts have questioned the effectiveness of the treaty as it does not involve any of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- all of which are nuclear power states. The United States has reportedly pressured some of the signatories as part of its opposition to the pact. Other nuclear weapon states -- India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea -- are not party to the treaty, either. People celebrate in front of the Peace Statue at Peace Park in Nagasaki, southwestern Japan, on Oct. 25, 2020, after the ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by 50 countries, paving the way for its entry into force on Jan. 22. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo Japan, the only country to have suffered the devastation of atomic bombings, has decided not to sign the treaty in consideration of its security ties with the United States. Survivors of the U.S. atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki along with others are calling for the Japanese government to take the lead in achieving a world free of nuclear weapons. Setsuko Thurlow, a Canada-based atomic bomb survivor and peace advocate, criticized Japan's stance over the treaty under former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who stepped down last month after nearly eight years in power. "I would like Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to see the reality in a flexible way without doing the same thing as his predecessor," said Thurlow, who survived the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima at age 13, in an online event. Toshiyuki Mimaki, acting head of the atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima, said the ratification by the 50 countries has established a base to press nuclear powers and those under a nuclear umbrella to abolish nuclear weapons. Speaking at a news conference in the western Japan city, Mimaki, 78, urged the government to ratify the treaty, saying, "Can the (only) atomic-bombed country just stand by and watch developments from the sidelines? I would like the government to change its attitude." ICAN, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said in a statement, "In countries that have not joined, it is up to us to make sure that companies, governments and people know that nuclear weapons are illegal and that they need to stand on the right side of history."

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Coronavirus

FEATURE: School trips in Japan go virtual during pandemic

FEATURE: School trips in Japan go virtual during pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has changed much about how children study, from online learning to parents carrying the teaching load, but in Japan schools are looking to the internet to maintain one much-beloved tradition -- the school trip. With multi-day in-person school trips often no longer an option, excursions are being conducted on a new platform, where technology is being deployed to give students a safe simulation of the real thing when hitting the road is not possible. Students at Nagaizumikita junior high school in Shizuoka Prefecture, central Japan, make traditional Japanese "nerikiri" confectionary during their "remote school trip" in mid-October, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Nagaizumikita junior high school)(Kyodo) While many schools have canceled or postponed outings due to the global health crisis, some have taken students on "remote trips" which allow students to participate in cultural activities and sightseeing without having to step out of their classrooms. The purpose of school trips, according to an education ministry official, is to have children learn things they cannot in their classrooms. Students often study about the place they are visiting ahead of time so they know what they are looking at. Popular destinations include Tokyo, as well as the historical and cultural hubs of Kyoto and Nara in western Japan. Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the cities that suffered U.S. atomic bombing at the end of World War II, Hokkaido in the north and Okinawa in the south have also see many student trips. But with the pandemic, it has become more difficult to keep students and faculty members safe. In mid-October, students at a junior high school in Shizuoka Prefecture, central Japan, participated in a virtual trip to Kyoto and Nara after their visit to the real thing, originally scheduled for May, had to be scrapped. Using the videoconferencing app Zoom, the third-grade students at Nagaizumikita junior high school toured the World Heritage-listed Yakushiji Temple in Nara guided by a monk who explained the notable features of the Buddhist temple, which has an approximately 1,300-year history. The students also listened to a talk from the monk on Buddhist teachings, with lessons emphasizing the importance of perceptions and having a positive attitude during the pandemic. Students at Nagaizumikita junior high school in Shizuoka Prefecture, central Japan, listen to a talk by a Buddhist monk of World Heritage-listed Yakushiji Temple during their "remote school trip" in mid-October, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Nagaizumikita junior high school)(Kyodo) After changing into their aprons, the students also made a traditional Japanese "nerikiri" confectionary via a remote lesson from a confectioner in Kyoto. The roughly four-hour program also included a competition in which comedians based in western Japan quizzed the students about their understanding of the area. Manabu Watanabe, the vice principal of the school, stressed virtual trips will never be able to fully replace traveling in person as a group, but he said going virtual helped give the students "a taste of the trip" at this difficult time. "The students are in their final grade of junior high school, so we wanted to give them a chance to create memories with each other. They said they really enjoyed it," he said. "It is, obviously, different from traveling physically, but the goal was to have the students get a feel of the trip even if it's only a little," he said. The virtual trip was organized by a travel agency, Kinki Nippon Tourist Metropolitan Co., which launched the remote school trip program in late September. According to the company, it has already held several remote trips and expects to host about 10 by the end of the year. "People hesitate to travel in large groups now. Our program is intended to offer something fun to students who missed out on their trips," a company spokesperson said. According to the Japan School Trip Bureau, a nongovernmental foundation, the majority of schools that planned trips in the springtime were forced to cancel or postpone them. But some schools have decided to go ahead with trips or schedule them in October and November after the pace of infections in the country slowed. Education minister Koichi Hagiuda told a press conference on Oct. 2 that he wants schools to return to holding in-person trips by taking sufficient measures against the virus. School trips nationwide are part of the government's "Go To Travel" subsidy campaign, he added. "For children, (the trips) are an invaluable memory and also very effective in terms of education. We would like to request schools make as much effort as possible, including traveling to less distant destinations," he said. The schools that have decided to go ahead with physical excursions have been making scheduling changes, including shortening their durations and switching destinations to reduce the risk of virus infections, the bureau said. Instead of going to a location that is far and that requires a lot of traveling on busy trains or planes, many schools have been holding their trips locally. In addition, some schools have refrained from using train travel entirely, opting instead for buses to limit the students' interactions with the public. Mitsuhiro Takano, the director of the bureau, said it has received questions from many school officials who are scrambling to decide what is best for their students. Parents and guardians are worried their children may spread the virus when they return from a trip, concern is especially strong among those who live in regions with an aging population, he said. "The current situation makes it difficult to have school trips the way they were before the pandemic." Students at Nagaizumikita junior high school in Shizuoka Prefecture, central Japan, take part in a "remote school trip" in mid-October, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Nagaizumikita junior high school)(Kyodo)

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