HIROSHIMA – Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba hit out here Friday at the “egocentric worldview” of the United States as well as moves in Japan to revise the country’s pacifist Constitution.
“Ignoring the United Nations and . . . international law, the United States has resumed research to make nuclear weapons smaller and more usable,” Akiba said during this year’s Peace Declaration at a memorial service marking the 59th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of the city.
“The egocentric worldview of the U.S. government is reaching extremes,” he said.
An estimated 45,000 people attended the ceremony, which began at 8 a.m. in Peace Memorial Park. Hiroshima was devastated in the world’s first nuclear attack, on Aug. 6, 1945.
“The Japanese government, as our representative, should defend the peace Constitution, of which all Japanese should be proud, and work diligently to rectify the trend toward open acceptance of war and nuclear weapons that is increasingly prevalent at home and abroad,” Akiba said.
“We demand that our government act on its obligation as the only country to suffer atomic bombings,” he said.
Akiba apparently wanted to stir up debate on the issue of revising the Constitution, a move favored by senior lawmakers in both the ruling bloc and main opposition party.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, speaking after Akiba, vowed to maintain the Constitution and Japan’s three avowed principles of not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons on its soil. “We will press for moves for nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation,” Koizumi said.
Japan “will make every effort to achieve the total elimination of nuclear weapons by more strongly urging governments of other countries to quickly ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty,” he said, offering his condolences to A-bomb victims.
Koizumi received thin applause after his speech and was even booed by some in the crowd.
Article 9 of the Constitution stipulates that the Japanese people “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.”
Akiba is a former House of Representatives member of the Social Democratic Party, which opposes revising the Constitution and Japan’s dispatch of troops to Iraq.
Last month, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage reportedly said the article hinders the Japan-U.S. alliance. He backtracked after the remark drew strong criticism from Japanese lawmakers.
The 59th anniversary comes at a time when concern about nuclear issues has intensified globally.
Multilateral efforts are under way to deal with North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, and Iran has come under international pressure to allow inspections of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Expressing hope for the success of the 2005 Review Conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the declaration addressed Hiroshima’s determination to the initiative in achieving the complete abolition of nuclear weapons by bringing together cities, citizens and nongovernmental organizations from around the world.
The initiative, the Emergency Campaign to Ban Nuclear Weapons, aims at adopting an action program incorporating an interim goal of “the signing in 2010 of a Nuclear Weapons Convention to serve as the framework for eliminating nuclear weapons by 2020,” Akiba said.
Among those attending the ceremony were Pakistani Ambassador Kamran Niaz and Russian Ambassador Alexander Losyukov.
Although the Hiroshima Municipal Government asked the seven declared nuclear countries — Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, Russia and the United States — as well as North Korea to send government delegates to the ceremony, only Pakistan and Russia accepted.
Thousands of A-bomb survivors, mostly in their 70s, members of their families, journalists from the Japanese and foreign media, and peace activists endured the hot, humid weather to attend the memorial ceremony.
“Japan should not become what it used to be during the days of war,” A-bomb survivor Makiko Kawamura said.
Australian Kevin Buzzacott said, “I feel pain from the past and share that with people while honoring lost people and survivors.”
American university student Nathaniel Hay came to the city to see “what has happened here.”
Referring to the bombing, Hay said, “Younger generation . . . my generation, I think, definitely have more of a view that it wasn’t necessary.”
At 8:15 a.m., the time the atomic bomb was detonated about 600 meters over the city, participants closed their eyes and maintained a minute of silence.
White and gray doves, representing hopes for peace, were also released.
“Unfortunately,” Akiba said, “the human race still lacks both a lexicon capable of fully expressing that disaster and sufficient imagination to bridge the gap.”
The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and its aftereffects killed an estimated 140,000 people by the end of 1945.
This year, the names of 5,142 more people the city has recognized as A-bomb victims since Aug. 6 last year were added to a memorial arch, bringing the total to 237,062.
Annan sends message
HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan urged the international community Friday to intensify efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons.
“The goal of a nuclear weapons-free world is still a long way off,” Annan said in a written message sent to the city government of Hiroshima, which that day marked the 59th anniversary of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of the city during World War II.