• Kyodo

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Nagasaki on Thursday commemorated the first anniversary in the 21st century of its 1945 atomic bombing, vowing to take the lead in eliminating nuclear weapons by strengthening links with nongovernmental organizations and municipalities around the world.

Nagasaki Mayor Itcho Ito called on the central government to play an active role in the elimination of nuclear weapons and convene an international assembly to enact a treaty abolishing such weapons in a peace declaration he delivered during the city’s annual peace ceremony.

The request was an apparent allusion to moves by the United States to ditch the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and develop missile defense systems.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Chikara Sakaguchi — whose ministry deals with policies for rehabilitation of atomic-bomb survivors — were among some 4,800 attending the 53-minute ceremony at Nagasaki Peace Park.

In his address, Koizumi said Japan will continue to urge other countries to bring the CTBT into force, and will work for the success of a meeting in New York in September on enforcement of the pact.

“Japan will keep standing at the forefront of efforts to promote arms reduction and nuclear nonproliferation for the elimination of nuclear weapons and realization of permanent peace,” he said.

Leaders of political parties, including Yukio Hatoyama of the Democratic Party of Japan, Takenori Kanzaki of New Komeito and Takako Doi of the Social Democratic Party, also took part in the event.

The ceremony began at 10:45 a.m., with participants seated under a huge tent erected over the main square in the park.

Ito and representatives of relatives of A-bomb victims and of survivors placed three books on a podium built on a makeshift stage constructed in front of a 10-meter-high bronze peace statue.

The books list the names of 2,439 people who have newly been recognized by the city government as bomb victims between Aug. 1 last year to July 31 this year.

Several participants also offered flowers. The number of victims in the city reached an estimated 126,630 as of July 31, including an estimated 74,000 who died in or shortly after the bombing, the city said.

At 11:02 a.m., the time when the United States dropped the bomb 56 years ago, participants observed one minute of silence for the victims.

In his peace declaration, Ito touched on Nagasaki’s hosting last November of Japan’s first-ever event linking local governments and NGOs in efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons, saying, “This event confirmed our belief that the united action of ordinary citizens can indeed move the world.

“We shall further strengthen our links with NGOs and municipalities around the globe, standing at the forefront of efforts to abolish nuclear weapons.”

The mayor said the city is drawing up the Nagasaki Peace Education Program to teach youth about peace and the sanctity of human rights, as well as the history of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as part of efforts to lead the world in the active pursuit of global peace.

He also called on Tokyo to begin extending assistance to an estimated 8,500 people who were affected by the bombing but have not been eligible for benefits because they live outside areas officially designated as being affected by the bombing. Many such people have suffered from deteriorating health caused by mental trauma.

“Nagasaki must forever remain the last place ever to have suffered a nuclear attack,” he said.

Other ceremony participants included representatives of a group of leaders from about 100 cities from around the world currently meeting in Nagasaki to explore ways to strengthen a global network of municipalities seeking the elimination of nuclear weapons.

The number of A-bomb survivors in Nagasaki totaled 51,991 as of June 30, the city said, adding the average age of the survivors is 69.5.

Nagasaki is 300 km southwest of Hiroshima, the first city to fall victim to a U.S. atomic attack. An estimated 140,000 people died as a result of the Hiroshima bombing, which took place three days before the devastation of Nagasaki in the final days of World War II.

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