Nagasaki commemorated the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city Sunday with calls for the world to abolish nuclear weapons and a direct criticism of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s attempt to pass controversial security legislation.

“Now there is an attempt to return to the wartime era by forcing through approval of the right to collective self-defense and an amendment to the Constitution,” said Sumiteru Taniguchi, who was representing Nagasaki’s atomic bomb survivors at the ceremony.

“The security legislation the government is pursuing will lead to war. It is an attempt to overturn the nuclear abolition activities and wishes held and carried out by the hibakusha and those multitudes of people who desire peace. We cannot accept this,” he said, drawing a round of applause.

Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue also spoke directly about public concerns over the security bills.

“The Diet is currently deliberating a bill which will determine how our country guarantees its security,” Taue said in this year’s Nagasaki Peace Declaration. “There is widespread unease and concern that the oath which was engraved onto our hearts 70 years ago and the peaceful ideology of the Constitution of Japan are now wavering. I urge the government and the Diet to listen to these voices of unease and concern, concentrate their wisdom, and conduct careful and sincere deliberations.”

The prime minister, who has been under domestic and international criticism for breaking precedent at the Hiroshima ceremony by not reaffirming Japan’s commitment to the three nonnuclear principles of not possessing, manufacturing, or introducing nuclear weapons, did so in Nagasaki.

“As the only country in the world to ever suffer the atomic bomb in wartime, we are newly determined to lead international nonproliferation initiatives toward a nuclear weapons-free world while maintaining the three nonnuclear principles,” Abe said.

Though never formally adopted into law, the principles were passed as a Diet resolution in 1967 and have guided the nation’s official policy ever since.

Abe did, however, mention the principles during a meeting after the Hiroshima ceremony with atomic bomb survivors. But the omission at the ceremony, combined with an earlier remark by Defense Minister Gen Nakatani that the new security legislation could theoretically allow for the transport, repair, or storage of nuclear weapons for a foreign ally, has heightened concern over the bills.

Nakatani’s insistence that Japan will never be asked to do so because of the nonnuclear principles and Washington’s current policy of not forward-deploying nuclear weapons in this part of the world — as well as Abe’s reply in the Lower House Budget Committee on Friday that Japan will follow the principles as a matter of course — did little to stem the flood of criticism.

The other issue of concern is that this year, the average age of the atomic bomb survivors is now just over 80 years. Both Taue and Abe spoke of the need to ensure the elderly victims are properly taken care of and that their lessons are passed down to younger generations.

During the past year, 3,373 officially recognized victims of the Nagasaki bomb passed away, bringing the official number who have died to 168,767. The bomb initially killed over 74,000 in a city with a population in 1945 of about 240,000. Another 75,000 people were injured.

Aug. 9, 1945, marked the second — and final — time an atomic bomb would be dropped on a civilian population. The selection of the city was a last-minute decision by the Americans.

Kokura, now part of Kitakyu-shu in Fukuoka Prefecture, had been the intended target that day, but cloud cover, as well as haze and heavy smoke, obscured the city, forcing the B-29 loaded with the bomb, and an accompanying observer plane, to divert to the secondary target of Nagasaki.

“Twenty minutes after (the) explosion, the southern edge of (the mushroom) cloud was tangent to north end of Nagasaki harbor with southeastern part of city visible. There were scattered fires on the west side of Nagasaki harbor,” a top-secret report from the U.S. said.

The bombing of Nagasaki also came just as the Soviet Union allowed its neutrality pact with Japan to expire and invaded Japanese-held Manchuria.

An Aug. 10, 1945, cable to superiors in Washington from Maj. Gen. Leslie Groves, who headed the Manhattan Project to build the weapon, said that a third atomic bomb could be dropped after Aug. 24, depending on the weather. But on Aug. 15, Japan surrendered, thereby ending the war.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.