NAGASAKI – Nagasaki Mayor Itcho Ito called on U.S. citizens Monday to stand against their government’s pursuit of enhanced nuclear capabilities and urged the Japanese government to take no action that will disturb Northeast Asian peace and security.
“People of America, the path leading to the long-term survival of the human race unequivocally requires the elimination of nuclear arms,” Ito said during this year’s Peace Declaration at a memorial service marking the 59th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki during World War II.
“As long as the world’s leading superpower fails to change its posture of dependence on nuclear weapons,” Ito said, “it is clear that the tide of nuclear proliferation cannot be stemmed.
“We call upon the citizens of the United States to look squarely at the reality of the tragedies . . . of the atomic bombings,” he said, citing the 1996 opinion of the International Court of Justice, which said using or threatening to use nuclear weapons runs counter to international law.
The mayor criticized the U.S. government for maintaining about 10,000 nuclear weapons, repeating subcritical nuclear tests and attempting to develop so-called mini nuclear weapons.
An estimated 20,000 Japanese and foreign citizens joined the ceremony at Nagasaki Peace Park in memory of the victims of the Aug. 9, 1945, nuclear attack, which came three days after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during the closing days of World War II.
Among the guests were Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Democratic Party of Japan leader Katsuya Okada.
The one-hour ceremony began at 10:45 a.m., and a moment of silence was observed at 11:02 a.m., the time a B-29 dropped the bomb on the city.
Ito urged Koizumi’s administration to stick with the war-renouncing Constitution and enact into law the government’s three avowed principles of not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons on its soil.
As Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba did Friday in his city’s ceremony, Ito appeared to be issuing a warning to Koizumi and other lawmakers who have called for revising the Constitution.
Taking the podium after Ito, Koizumi reiterated Japan’s pacifist position but fell short of promising his government would not seek to amend the Constitution.
“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,” Koizumi said, and then offered his condolences to A-bomb victims.
Ito said in his speech, “The combination of the threefold nonnuclear principle with nuclear disarmament on the Korean Peninsula will pave the road toward creation of a Northeast Asia nuclear-weapons-free zone.
“Japan itself must also pursue an independent security stance that does not rely on nuclear arms,” he added.
Multinational efforts are under way to defuse the tension over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. Pyongyang has called for security assurances from the U.S. and energy assistance in return for scrapping its nuclear arms program.
Meanwhile the Nagasaki and Hiroshima mayors, who lead Mayors for Peace, an organization of 611 mayors in 109 countries, have voiced concern, as well as hope, about the effectiveness of international control of nuclear weapons under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.