• Kyodo


Hiroshima on Monday commemorated the 56th anniversary of the atomic bombing here in 1945, vowing to make the new century one of peace and humanity, free of nuclear weapons.

A woman offers prayers for the dead.

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba called for nuclear-free zones in Asia and a global treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons forever in a peace declaration he delivered at the city’s annual ceremony.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Chikara Sakaguchi — whose ministry deals with policies for atomic-bomb survivors — were among an estimated 50,000 people attending the ceremony in the city’s Peace Memorial Park.

House of Councilors President Yutaka Inoue and Itcho Ito, mayor of Nagasaki, which was also A-bombed by the United States, took part in the 45-minute event.

Koizumi told the gathering that the nation will continue taking the lead in pushing for global elimination of nuclear arms.

Japan will urge other countries to promote arms reduction and nuclear nonproliferation, and Tokyo will make further efforts to have the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty come into force, he said.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said in a message read on his behalf that the international community must rid itself of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, which haunt all countries in the world with terror.

“Let us renew our solemn vow never to repeat” the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Annan said in the message read by U.N. Undersecretary General Kenzo Oshima.

Atomic bomb survivors and relatives of deceased victims attend a peace memorial held by the city of Hiroshima.

The ceremony began at 8 a.m. with Akiba and two citizens placing under the park’s arch-shaped cenotaph two books containing the names of 4,757 people newly recognized this year by the city government as bomb victims.

Participants offered flowers for the souls of the victims in front of the cenotaph. The number of victims in the city totaled 221,893 as of Monday, including an estimated 140,000 who had died by the end of 1945 as a direct result of the bomb, the city said.

At 8:15 a.m., the time when the U.S. dropped the bomb 56 years ago, a moment of silence was observed in memory of the victims.

“The calendar end to the ‘century of war’ has not automatically ushered in a century of peace and humanity. . . . Some are trying to extend battlefields into space,” Akiba said in the peace declaration, in apparent reference to controversial U.S. missile defense plans.

He demanded that the central government respect the rights of atomic bomb survivors — whether in Japan or abroad — by providing them with improved support measures. South Korean hibakusha have filed lawsuits against Tokyo for its failure to provide the same medical benefits given to Japanese.

Koizumi meanwhile said the government will make “sincere efforts” to take measures to help aging A-bomb survivors.

Other ceremony participants included representatives of a group of leaders of about 100 cities from around the world currently visiting Hiroshima to explore ways to achieve global peace.

Representatives of the pro-Seoul Korean Residents Union in Japan (Mindan) and the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) jointly laid flowers at the cenotaph, the first time they have done so in the ceremony’s history.

The number of A-bomb survivors in Hiroshima totaled 88,592 as of late March, the city said, adding that the average age of the survivors was 70.1 years, topping 70 years for the first time.

An estimated 5,000 A-bomb survivors live in South Korea, North Korea, China, Brazil and the U.S. Of these, about 2,300 live in South Korea. Korea was under Japan’s colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.

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