NAGASAKI – Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue on Tuesday urged the international community to draw upon its “collective wisdom” to free the world of nuclear weapons as the city marked the 71st anniversary of its atomic bombing by the United States.
In his Peace Declaration delivered at the annual ceremony in Nagasaki Peace Park, Taue said new frameworks aimed at containing nuclear proliferation are necessary if mankind is to be prevented from destroying its future.
“Now is the time for all of you to bring together as much of your collective wisdom as you possibly can, and act,” he said.
Touching on a U.N. working group on nuclear disarmament being held in Geneva, Taue said the creation of the forum to recommend legal measures to abolish nuclear weapons was “a huge step forward.”
But noting the absence of many of the nuclear powers at the debate, he said that without their participation the discussions “will end without the creation of a road map for nuclear weapons abolition.”
Compared with a similar declaration by Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui three days earlier on the anniversary of that city’s atomic bombing, Taue was more blunt in both his suggestions for steps to achieve a nuclear-free world and his criticism of the Japanese government.
Taue criticized Japan’s policy of advocating the elimination of nuclear weapons while relying on the U.S. for nuclear deterrence, calling it “contradictory.” He also urged the government to enshrine into law its “three non-nuclear principles” of not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons on Japanese territory, which are currently nonbinding.
He further pressed the government to work to create what he called a “Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone” as a security framework that does not rely on nuclear deterrence.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in his speech, vowed to continue to make various efforts to bring about a “world free of nuclear weapons,” without referring to any concrete steps. His statements were almost identical to those he delivered during the ceremony in Hiroshima on Saturday.
Taue touched on the significance of U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Hiroshima in May, and called on the leaders of every country to visit the two cities to see the reality of atomic bombings.
Through his visit, Obama exhibited to the world “the importance of seeing, listening and feeling things for oneself,” Taue said, adding that “knowing the facts becomes the starting point for thinking about a future free of nuclear weapons.”
Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima.
Taue, meanwhile, called on younger generations to listen to the testimonies of atomic-bomb survivors.
Toyokazu Ihara, 80, representing atomic bomb survivors, known as hibakusha, called on the government not to rely on the U.S. “nuclear umbrella” and to urge nuclear-armed states to adopt a “no first use” policy.
“It is our hope that Japan will establish an honorable position for itself in the movement to prohibit nuclear weapons,” said Ihara, who as a 9-year-old was 6.5 km from the atomic bomb blast, and lost his mother, sister and brother to radiation-related illnesses.
Before the ceremony, Miyako Takashima, an 88-year-old hibakusha whose mother, elder sister and younger brother perished in the attack, prayed at the Peace Statue within the ceremony venue.
“I am praying for world peace,” Takashima said. “I believe nuclear weapons will be eliminated if people around the world imagine what damage an atomic bomb attack would cause them.”
At 11:02 a.m., the exact time the bomb detonated over Nagasaki 71 years ago, participants at the ceremony offered silent prayers for the victims.
An estimated 74,000 people died by the end of 1945 as a result of the bombing.
The number of official hibakusha — survivors with documents certifying that they experienced the atomic attacks in 1945 — at home and abroad stood at 174,080 as of March, and their average age was 80.86. The Nagasaki Municipal Government has confirmed the deaths of 3,487 hibakusha over the past year.