• Kyodo

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Taro Kono, a lawmaker from the Liberal Democratic Party, spoke on nuclear disarmament Saturday at an antinuclear gathering here, the first LDP lawmaker ever invited to deliver an address at the event.

“Would you please raise your hand if you believe nuclear weapons can be eliminated?” Kono asked a gathering organized by the Japan Congress Against A and H Bombs (Gensuikin).

Kono, 37, the son of Foreign Minister Yohei Kono, calls himself the only LDP member who has spoken out against nuclear power plants.

After about half of the 300 people in the audience raised their hands, Kono said he thought a realistic target would be to urge the world to reduce the number of nuclear warheads to 1,000 for the time being.

“To be honest, I’m not confident the world can abolish nuclear weapons before I die. But I will do everything in my power toward that goal,” he said.

Also speaking to the gathering was Toshio Sano, the chief of the Foreign Ministry’s Arms Control and Disarmament Division. “I expect antinuclear nongovernmental organizations such as Gensuikin to help us compile nuclear disarmament policies, although we (the government and the NGOs) have a history of something like a cold war.”

Based on his experience at the United Nations, Sano suggested it would be “dangerous” to expect too much from the U.N. Security Council, where the nuclear powers have a veto.

“It is historic to meet an LDP member and a government official at such a gathering,” said Masaru Nishida, the leader of a peace group.

Katsuya Okada of the Democratic Party of Japan and Tetsuo Kaneko of the Social Democratic Party — both parties back the congress — also attended the meeting.

The congress has been holding a series of meetings here since Friday to commemorate the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It will wrap them up Wednesday in Nagasaki.

Koreans mourn dead

HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) A memorial service was held here Saturday for Korean victims of the 1945 atomic bombing, attended by some 200 survivors of the attack and family members in Japan and from South Korea offering prayers.

During the service, which took place before the memorial tower in Peace Memorial Park here, family members consecrated the list of 2,585 Korean fatalities, including 27 who died in past year.

This is the second time such a service has been held within park. The stone memorial tower dedicated to the Korean victims — built across the river from the memorial park 30 years ago due to the city’s rejection to have it inside the park — was moved into the park in July 1999.

In one of the ceremonies, an official of the pro-South Korean Residents Association in Japan (Mindan) called for improving the situation of hibakusha in South Korea.

“The peace declaration of Hiroshima sounds empty given the reality in which (hibakusha in South Korea) remain without proper medical treatment simply because they no longer live in Japan,” he said.

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