Nagasaki calls for worldwide nuclear abolition treaty

Kyodo

Nagasaki urged world leaders Thursday to conclude a treaty banning nuclear weapons at a ceremony marking the 67th anniversary of its atomic bombing.

“The international community must act now by taking the first concrete steps toward concluding the Nuclear Weapons Convention,” Mayor Tomihisa Taue said during the city’s annual peace ceremony at Nagasaki Peace Park.

Taue also called on the central government to address the “serious challenge” presented by North Korea’s nuclear arms threat, while Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda declared in a speech that Japan has a “responsibility” to encourage countries to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

The appeals were included in a Peace Declaration that Taue read out at the ceremony, which was attended by U.S. Ambassador John Roos for the first time and representatives from about 40 countries, including nuclear-armed Britain and France. Roos attended Hiroshima’s annual peace ceremony in August 2010, but not Nagasaki’s.

Tens of thousands in the crowd observed a moment of silence at 11:02 a.m., the precise time at which the “Fat Man” A-bomb detonated above Nagasaki, ripping it to shreds. Up to 80,000 people were incinerated in the blast or had died from radiation-related illnesses by the end of 1945, according to municipal authorities.

The number of officially recognized hibakusha in Nagasaki stood at 39,324 as of March, with an average age of 77½ years, they added.

This year’s service was held as the public increasingly questions the safety of nuclear power, and as street protests escalate to demand the abolition of nuclear plants following the March 2011 catastrophe at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

“We call on the government to set new energy policy goals to build a society free from the fear of radioactivity,” Taue said in reference to the nuclear crisis.

In his address, Noda said “we aim to establish an energy structure in the mid- to long term in a form that will reassure the people of Japan, under a basic policy of reducing our dependence on nuclear power,” without elaborating.

Attendees this year included Clifton Truman Daniel, the oldest grandson of former U.S. President Harry Truman — who authorized the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A grandson of Jacob Beser, the only serviceman aboard both B-29 bombers used in the attacks, was also present.

Both had also attended the Monday annual ceremony in Hiroshima marking that city’s atomic bombing. Roos also went to that event.