Friday, August 6, 2010

Hiroshima marks 65th atomic bomb anniversary, calls for end of nuke weapons

Japan's Hiroshima marked the 65th atomic bomb anniversary on Friday for the first time with the presence of the UN chief and U.S. representatives, calling for a world free of nuclear weapons.

UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon attended the ceremony in Hiroshima Peace Park. Before Hiroshima, he also for the first time visited Nagasaki, the second Japanese city the United States dropped an atomic bomb on during World War II.

Ban was joined by representatives from over 70 countries, including U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos, who was the first U. S. representative to do so, and French and British officials.

"I feel honored to be the first U.N. secretary general to take part in the peace memorial ceremony on the 65th anniversary. And I am deeply moved. ... I come here for world peace." Ban said at the memorial ceremony.

"When the atomic bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I was one year old. Only later in life could I begin to understand the full dimension of all that happened here," he said.

Calling nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation a top priority of his work, Ban said "the moment has come" for the world to become free of weapons of mass destruction.

"We see new leadership from the most powerful nations. We see new engagement in the U.N. Security Council. We see new energy from civil society.," he said, adding important progress was made at the nuclear summit in Washington, which "we will build upon in Korea in 2012".

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba made a peace declaration at the ceremony, urging Japan to take the lead in the pursuit of abolishing nuclear weapons by 2020.

"Now the time is ripe for the Japanese government to take decisive action," he said. "It should begin to 'take the lead in the pursuit of elimination of nuclear weapons' by legislating into law the three non-nuclear principles, abandoning the U.S. nuclear umbrella, legally recognizing the expanded 'black rain areas,' and implementing compassionate, caring assistance measure for all the aging hibakusha anywhere in the world."

A moment of silence was observed at 8:15 a.m., the time of detonation of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima, which killed about 100,000 people in a blink.

Also present at the ceremony was Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who vowed to adhere to Japan's three antinuclear principles.

After the ceremony, Ban delivered a speech on nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, met with representatives of hibakusha societies and presented flowers at a monument for Korean who died in the bombing.

"They (hibakushas) have given me a good direction of what the United Nations Secretary General and what other world power should do in helping them to realize their dream and aspirations to see the end of nuclear weapons," Ban said.

"I respect Ban for his effort in nuclear reduction. The tragedy of Hiroshima should not be repeated. We should abolish nuclear weapons. The voice of us Hibakusha must be heard," said Kazushi Kaneko, Director General of Hiroshima council of A-bomb sufferers organizations, in an interview with Xinhua.

"We hibakusha should try our best to forward our experience to the others so as to avoid similar disasters to happen again," said 84-year-old Kaneko, who himself was a hibakusha.

U.S. Ambassador Roos' visit was largely quiet, but according to a press release from the U.S. embassy, Roos noted, "For the sake of future generations, we must continue to work together to realize a world without nuclear weapons."

Hiroshima citizens and Japanese media had hoped Roos' visit could bring President Barack Obama himself to the city later this year, when the president comes to Japan to join the APEC summit in Yokohama. However, according to Kyodo News, Obama said he had "no plan" to visit the city at the moment.

The U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, which took place on the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, led to the deaths of an estimated 140,000 people toward the end of World War II.

On Aug. 9, a second nuclear bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki, and six days later, Japan surrendered. In the years since the war, many people have developed diseases that are considered related to exposure to radiation created by the bombs.


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