People in Hiroshima and Nagasaki once again called for the total elimination of nuclear arms at this year’s memorial services marking the 59th anniversary of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombings of their cities.

But the gap appears to be widening between what they seek and what the declared nuclear powers are able to accomplish toward nonproliferation and disarmament.

In this year’s peace declarations, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki mayors again criticized the United States for its pursuit of enhanced nuclear capabilities.

“The egocentric worldview of the U.S. government is reaching extremes,” Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba said. His Nagasaki counterpart, Itcho Ito, said the U.S. “position of dependence on nuclear weapons” could hinder nonproliferation efforts.

At their annual ceremonies, held in Hiroshima on Friday and in Nagasaki on Monday, both mayors urged the Japanese government to lead the global antinuclear movement.

Antiwar calls, as usual, were also part of the ceremonies this year.

The mayors gave implicit warnings to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who participated in both memorial services, over his and other lawmakers’ calls for the pacifist Constitution to be revised.

Koizumi, who faced a cool reception and even boos in Hiroshima, reiterated Japan’s pacifist position but fell short of promising his government would not seek to amend the Constitution — a move some say would put the charter more in line with today’s realities and Japan’s global activities, including the current deployment of Self-Defense Forces troops in Iraq on a humanitarian mission.

Both mayors spoke of the Review Conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, scheduled for May at United Nations headquarters in New York, saying they hope the meeting will pave the way for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

The main focus of the conference will be to look at how much the major declared nuclear powers — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — have implemented “the unequivocal undertaking” they pledged in the 2000 review meeting, said Luis Alfonso de Alba, permanent representative of Mexico to U.N. organizations in Geneva.

“So far, nuclear-weapon states have completely refused any verification mechanism to enhance the transparency” of the NPT, Alba said in a speech in Hiroshima.

In 2000, the signatories agreed on 13 steps to implement the NPT, including speedy ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and a moratorium on all nuclear tests until the treaty comes into force.

But the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has shown little sign of taking the steps agreed to by his predecessor, Bill Clinton, who left office before 9/11 and before threats started to mount that enemies who are hard to pinpoint may target America or its allies with weapons of mass destruction.

Undersecretary of State John Bolton spoke of the invalidity of the undertaking earlier this year at preparation committees for next year’s conference, overshadowing the prospect of international controls toward nuclear disarmament and eventual atomic weapons abolition under the NPT.

The United States launched the Proliferation Security Initiative in May 2003 to intercept weapons of mass destruction while being transported. Japan and nine other countries joined the initiative, and the membership has since expanded to 15. Japan will host the next naval drills under the PSI.

The Hiroshima Municipal Government had asked the five declared nuclear powers and India and Pakistan, as well as North Korea, to send government representatives to the A-bomb memorial services this year.

Only Russia and Pakistan sent representatives. The rest declined and North Korea did not respond.

While admitting the need for nuclear nonproliferation, Russian Ambassador to Japan Alexander Losyukov and Pakistani Ambassador to Japan Kamran Niaz justified their nations’ possession of nuclear weapons on grounds of national security.

“There are terrorists as well as country leaders who cannot adequately control nuclear arms,” Losyukov told reporters in Hiroshima.

In a separate news conference, Niaz said that concerns over nuclear proliferation should be addressed “by those who themselves have thousands of nuclear weapons and . . . the ability to destroy.”

“The goal of a nuclear weapons-free world is still a long way off,” U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said in a written message to Hiroshima.

Faced with this situation, Akiba and Ito, who lead Mayors for Peace, an organization of 611 mayors in 109 countries, are calling for global cooperation by municipal governments, nongovernmental organizations and people.

They hope that mobilizing global public opinion against nuclear arms will ensure no other nation will ever have to experience a nuclear attack like Japan did.

Reading the Pledge for Peace before a crowd of thousands at the Nagasaki ceremony, Masatoshi Tsunenari, representing A-bomb survivors, quoted from the memorial Children Praying for Peace.

“Under the mushroom cloud, I clung to my mother and cried,” he said. “May the tragedy experienced by the children of Nagasaki never occur again.”

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