HIROSHIMA – At the ceremony Tuesday marking the 68th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to do whatever he can to achieve a world without nuclear arms and to offer better support to atomic-bomb survivors fighting radiation-caused health problems.
Abe also said in his speech in Peace Memorial Park near ground zero that Japan will maintain its three nonnuclear principles of not producing, possessing or allowing the entry of nuclear weapons onto its territory.
“We Japanese are the only people to have experienced the horror of nuclear devastation in war,” he said in front of an estimated 50,000 people at the annual event. “We bear a responsibility to bring about a world without nuclear weapons without fail.”
Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which won big in last month’s Upper House election, wants to restart nuclear power plants, sell Japanese nuclear technology abroad and change the pacifist Constitution.
Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui voiced worry over the administration’s drive to seek civil nuclear cooperation deal with nuclear-armed India, saying even if such a deal “promotes their economic relationship, it is likely to hinder nuclear weapons abolition.”
Calling atomic bombs “the ultimate inhumane weapon and an absolute evil,” Matsui urged the central government to strengthen its ties with nations pursuing the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Matsui made the remark after Japan recently declined to back a statement urging that nuclear weapons never again be used under any circumstances. The statement was prepared in April at a preparatory committee session in Geneva for the next Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review meeting.
Anti-nuclear groups and other peace campaigners have criticized the government stance, which stems from Japan’s reliance on the deterrence offered by the U.S. nuclear umbrella.
Matsui stopped short of clarifying the city’s stance on the appropriateness of nuclear power as an energy source and on amending the Constitution.
He only said that “Hiroshima is a place that embodies the grand pacifism of the Japanese Constitution,” and “we urge the central government to rapidly develop and implement a responsible energy policy that places priority on safety and the livelihoods of the people.”
Nearly all of Japan’s 50 commercial reactors remain offline because of the Fukushima crisis that began in March 2011.
A moment of silence was observed at 8:15 a.m., the time the atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima at an altitude of about 600 meters. A second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9 that year, and Japan surrendered six days later.
Tuesday’s ceremony was attended by representatives of about 70 countries, including U.S. Ambassador John Roos as well as Vuk Jeremic, president of the U.N. General Assembly.
Other participants included Tamotsu Baba, mayor of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, Oscar-winning U.S. filmmaker Oliver Stone, who made a documentary series examining why the bombs were dropped, and representatives of nuclear powers Britain, France and Russia. China was not represented for a fifth straight year.
Abe, who attended the annual ceremony in 2007 during his first stint as prime minister, said Japan bears responsibility to keep conveying the cruelty of atomic weapons to future generations and beyond the country’s borders.
A message from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was read out by his proxy, saying, “Together, let us reaffirm our commitment to create a world free of nuclear weapons.”
Among those who took part from Fukushima Prefecture, Maki Nitto, 30, said that while she had learned about the bombing at school, until the Fukushima disaster led to her evacuation she had “never thought it had anything to do with me.”
“Although nuclear power plants and nuclear bombs are different, both . . . issues have the same roots,” said Nitto.