Nagasaki mayor warns Abe at 69th A-bomb rites

AP, Kyodo

The mayor of Nagasaki on Saturday raised concern over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s assault on pacifism as the city marked the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing.

Speaking at the ceremony in Nagasaki’s Peace Park, Mayor Tomihisa Taue urged the Abe government to heed growing public concerns over Japan’s commitment to the pacifist pledge in the Constitution.

On Wednesday, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui did not directly refer to the issue in his speech at his city’s annual A-bomb ceremony, drawing fire from opponents of the Cabinet’s controversial decision to reinterpret, rather than amend, the Constitution to permit the use of collective self-defense, undermining the nation’s pacifist status.

The thousands of attendants at Saturday’s event included U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, who with a record number of representatives from 51 other countries offered a minute of silence and prayer as a bell tolled for the victims at 11:02 a.m., when the U.S. bomb dubbed “Fat Man” was dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945. They also laid wreaths of white and yellow chrysanthemums at the Statue of Peace.

The anniversary arrived as the nation wrestles with the issue of collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of an ally under armed attack, and the Abe administration’s push to give the Self-Defense Forces a “proactive” role overseas.

Opinion polls show more than half of the public opposes the decision, mainly because of regional sensitivity to Japan’s wartime past, the devastation witnessed at home toward the end of World War II, and the potential for Japan to be dragged into a war.

Representatives from other members of the nuclear club, including Britain, France, Russia and China, attended the ceremony, as did those from the European Union.

Nagasaki was struck by the second atomic bomb to be used in war. It detonated at an altitude of about 500 meters at 11:02 a.m. on Aug. 9, 1945, three days after the first A-bomb flattened Hiroshima.

The attack had killed an estimated 74,000 in Nagasaki by the end of 1945. Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces six days later, bringing the war to an end.