Hiroshima recalled the atomic bombing 77 years ago as officials including the UN chief warned of a buildup of nuclear weapons and fears grew of another attack from that type in the middle of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
“Nuclear weapons are nonsense. They guarantee no security – only death and destruction,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who joined in the prayer at Hiroshima Peace Park.
“Three quarters of a century later, we have to ask ourselves what we learned from the mushroom cloud that swelled over this city in 1945,” he said.
The United States dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, destroying the city and killing 140,000 people.
He dropped a second bomb three days later on Nagasaki, killing another 70,000.
Japan surrendered on August 15, ending World War II and nearly half a century of Japanese aggression in Asia.
Fears of a third atomic bombing have grown amid threats of nuclear attack from Russia since it began its war on Ukraine in February.
“Crises with serious nuclear undertones are spreading rapidly” in the Middle East and on the Korean Peninsula, Guterres said.
“We are one mistake, one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from Armageddon.”
Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui in his peace statement accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of “using his own people as an instrument of war and stealing the lives and livelihoods of innocent civilians in another country. “.
Russia’s war against Ukraine is helping to build support for nuclear deterrence, Matsui said, urging the world not to repeat the mistakes that destroyed his city nearly eight decades ago.
On Saturday, attendees, including government leaders and diplomats, observed a minute’s silence with the sound of a peace bell at 8:15 a.m., when the US B-29 dropped the bomb on the city.
About 400 doves, considered symbols of peace, were released.
Guterres met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida after the ceremony and sounded the alarm over global backsliding in nuclear disarmament, stressing the importance for Japan, the only country in the world to have suffered nuclear attacks, to take leading the effort, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said. .
Mr. Kishida escorted Mr. Guterres into the peace museum, where they each folded an origami crane, a symbol of peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Russia and its ally Belarus were not invited to this year’s peace memorial.
Russia’s Ambassador to Japan Mikhail Galuzin offered flowers to a memorial epitaph in the park on Thursday and told reporters that his country would never use nuclear weapons.
The world continues to be threatened by nuclear weapons, Kishida said at the memorial.
“I must raise my voice to call on people around the world that the tragedy of the use of nuclear weapons never happens again,” he said.
“Japan will follow its path to a world without nuclear weapons, however narrow, steep or difficult it may be.”
Kishida, who will host a Group of Seven summit meeting next May in Hiroshima, said he hoped to share his commitment with other G7 leaders “before the peace monument” to unite them to protect peace and international order based on the universal values of freedom. and democracy.
Matsui criticized nuclear-weapon states, including Russia, for failing to take action despite pledging to meet obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“Rather than treating a world without nuclear weapons as a distant dream, they should take concrete steps towards its realization,” he said.
Critics say Mr Kishida’s call for a nuclear-free world is hollow because Japan remains under the US nuclear umbrella and continues to boycott the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Kishida said the treaty, which lacks the United States and other nuclear powers, is not realistic at the moment and Japan must bridge the gap between non-nuclear and nuclear powers.
Many bombing survivors have lasting injuries and illnesses resulting from the explosions and radiation exposure and face discrimination in Japan.
The government began providing medical support to certified survivors in 1968 after more than 20 years of effort on their part.
As of March, 118,935 survivors, whose average age is now over 84, are certified eligible for government medical aid, according to the Department of Health and Welfare.
But many others, including those who say they are victims of the “black rain” that fell outside the areas originally designated, are still without support.
Aging survivors, known in Japan as hibakusha, continue to push for a nuclear ban and hope to convince younger generations to join the movement.
Mr. Guterres had a message for the younger ones: “Finish the job the hibakusha started. Get their message across. In their name, in their honor, in their memory, we must act.