National

Mayor skeptical of Abe vow at Nagasaki rites to seek end to nuclear arms

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may have used the 68th anniversary Friday of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki to pledge his utmost efforts to abolish nuclear weapons, but Mayor Tomihisa Taue criticized the administration for its recent inaction.

“I call on the Japanese government to consider once again that Japan is the only country to have suffered a nuclear bombing,” Taue said twice in his latest Peace Declaration, delivered in the city’s Peace Park for the annual ceremony that was attended this year by representatives of 44 countries.

He said the Abe administration’s failure to sign a statement rejecting the use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances at an international meeting in April is “betraying the expectations of global society” and “implies that the government would approve of their use under some circumstances.”

Taue also expressed concern about the resumption of Japan-India negotiations for a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement, saying such deal with India, a de facto nuclear power that has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, would render “meaningless” the NPT regime and give North Korea “an excuse to justify” its nuclear weapons.

Abe pledged that Japan will make every effort to eradicate nuclear weapons, as he did during a ceremony Tuesday in Hiroshima commemorating the 1945 atomic bombing of that city.

On the administration’s decision not to endorse the joint statement, which was supported by 80 countries at the preparatory committee session in Geneva for the next NPT review meeting, Abe told reporters in Hiroshima that “the severe reality” of North Korea’s nuclear threat had an influence.

The speeches at Friday’s ceremony came after participants offered silent prayers for the victims at 11:02 a.m., the time the bomb detonated over Nagasaki.

Representing hibakusha, Shohei Tsuiki, 86, who was then 18, said what he saw after the bombing was “just a scene from hell,” filled with people without ears and noses, with burned skin dangling from their bodies, or holding their dead children.

“It is obvious that nuclear power and human beings cannot coexist,” he said, referring to the Fukushima crisis as well as the bombings of the two cities. “I ask the government to take action sincerely and proactively toward the elimination of nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants.”

All five declared nuclear powers under the NPT — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — were represented, along with India as a first-time attendee and Israel among de facto nuclear powers that are not NPT signatories.

U.S. Ambassador John Roos, who in 2010 became the first envoy from Washington to attend Hiroshima’s memorial ceremony, attended the Nagasaki ceremony for the second time.

Three days after Hiroshima was devastated by an atomic bomb dropped by a U.S. B-29 bomber, the United States dropped another on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945. An estimated 74,000 people were killed in the blast and its immediate aftermath in a city with a population of about 240,000.

Taue said Nagasaki “supports” U.S. President Barack Obama’s desire to seek a nuclear-free world, expressed in Prague in April 2009, and his statement in June this year to work toward a reduction of nuclear arsenals.