HIROSHIMA – The city of Hiroshima held a memorial ceremony Sunday to mark the 61st anniversary of the Aug. 6, 1945, U.S. atomic bombing, with Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba calling on all nations to “faithfully” engage in nuclear disarmament negotiations.
In the Peace Declaration read at the memorial service, Akiba expressed concern over stalled moves toward eliminating nuclear weapons, saying he expects Japan, the only country to experience the devastation of nuclear warfare, to take a robust role in a global campaign.
“The number of nations enamored of evil and enslaved by nuclear weapons is increasing,” he said. “The human family stands at a crossroads. Will all nations be enslaved? Or will all nations be liberated?”
Some 45,000 people, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and U.N. Undersecretary General Nobuaki Tanaka, gathered at Peace Memorial Park for the annual event.
In his speech, Koizumi vowed to maintain Japan’s three principles of not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons on its soil.
“I will again vow that (we) will continue to stand at the forefront to realize the abolition of nuclear weapons and achieve permanent peace,” he said.
A moment of silence was observed at 8:15 a.m., the time the atomic bomb detonated over the city at an altitude of about 600 meters, killing an estimated 140,000 people by the end of 1945.
A thousand doves were released representing hope for peace and two sixth-grade students recited the “commitment to peace.”
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, in a message read by Tanaka, encouraged efforts to strengthen the nonproliferation regime, even though the world is far from getting rid of nuclear arms.
“A world without nuclear weapons may be distant, but it is not a dream. The end of the Cold War made possible a measurable reduction in nuclear arsenals. That progress must now be accelerated and solidified,” the message said.
Mayor Akiba criticized world leaders for failing to accept a historic advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice 10 years ago. It said the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law.
The court suggested that all nations are under an obligation to pursue negotiations in “good faith” and conclude measures leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects.
“If the nuclear-weapon states had taken the lead and sought in good faith to fulfill this obligation, nuclear weapons would have been abolished already,” Akiba said.
He said Hiroshima, along with about 1,400 member cities of the Mayors for Peace organization, which he heads, has launched a campaign to promote the world court’s recommendation and a project to demand nuclear-weapon states rule out cities as targets of nuclear attack.
The Mayors for Peace organization hopes to realize a nuclear-free world by 2020.
Calling the nuclear deterrence theory and the idea of a nuclear umbrella a “delusion,” Akiba added, “Cities and citizens of the world have a duty to release the lost sheep from the spell and liberate the world from nuclear weapons.”
The Hiroshima anniversary comes amid lingering international concern over North Korean and Iranian nuclear ambitions and the Middle East crisis.
The six-party talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear programs, which involve South Korea, North Korea, the United States, China, Japan, and Russia, are deadlocked. Iran has yet to comply with a U.N. Security Council resolution calling on it to suspend all uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.
Akiba said he expects Tokyo to “forcefully insist” that nuclear-weapon states engage in good-faith nuclear disarmament negotiations.
“To that end, I demand that the government respect the peaceful Constitution, of which we should be proud,” he added, apparently in reference to moves to amend or rewrite the pacifist Constitution.
Akiba called for the government to provide support for atomic bomb survivors in accordance with their actual conditions.
This year, the names of 5,350 more people recognized as atomic-bomb victims by Hiroshima since Aug. 6 last year were added to the cenotaph at the Peace Memorial Park, bringing the total number of victims to 247,787.
The city of Hiroshima invited government representatives from 140 countries, including seven declared nuclear powers — Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, Russia and the U.S. — as well as North Korea and Iran. Russia and Iran sent delegates.
Tibor Toth, executive secretary of the Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, offered flowers at the cenotaph.
A total of 259,556 atomic bomb survivors were alive as of March 31, with their average age 73.9, according to the city of Hiroshima.
Thousands of people from around the world also participated in the ceremony.
“People, especially world leaders, should come to Hiroshima to see for themselves the devastation (caused by the atomic bomb).” said Jennifer Borio, 34, an American living in Tokyo who came the ceremony for the first time as part of a peace studies course she is taking at Hiroshima City University.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.