Hiroshima marks 74th anniversary of atomic bombing

Hiroshima marked the 74th anniversary of its atomic bombing by the United States on Tuesday, with the city's Mayor Kazumi Matsui putting pressure on the Japanese government to join a U.N. treaty banning nuclear weapons in his peace declaration speech.
Attended by representatives from about 90 countries including the United States, the annual memorial ceremony took place at the Peace Memorial Park near Ground Zero.
In the annual declaration, Matsui called on the central government to "accede" to the request from hibakusha, as atomic bomb survivors are known in Japan, that the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was passed in July 2017 with the support of 122 nations, be "signed and ratified."
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave a speech at the ceremony but avoided any reference to the treaty. Japan has refused to participate in the treaty, along with other countries under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, as have the world's nuclear-weapon states.
For the past two years, Matsui had stopped short of explicitly demanding that Japan join the treaty, citing his wish to not make political capital from the peace declaration. The treaty is not yet in force since it has not been ratified by the required 50 states.
This year, Matsui also demanded that the world leaders "respond to the yearning of civil society for entry into force" of the treaty, and Japanese leaders "manifest the pacifism of the Constitution" by showing leadership toward a nuclear-weapon-free world.
"Around the world today, we see self-centered nationalism in ascendance, tensions heightened by international exclusivity and rivalry, with nuclear disarmament at a standstill," Matsui warned.
The power of individuals is weak, he said, but added there have been many examples of collective strength achieving desired goals.
"Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit," the mayor said, quoting Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India's nonviolent independence movement against British rule.
He pointed out that "coming generations must never dismiss the atomic bombings and the war as mere events of the past."
To convey the reality of the atomic bombing, a Japanese classical "tanka" poem, written by a woman who survived the bombing at the age of 5, was cited in the declaration for the first time.
Abe said Japan will serve tenaciously as a "mediator between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states" and "take the lead in making such efforts" in the international community.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in his message, "The world is indebted to" people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the other A-bombed city, "for their courage and moral leadership in reminding us all about the human cost of nuclear war."
A moment of silence was observed at 8:15 a.m., the exact time on Aug. 6, 1945, when a uranium-core atomic bomb named "Little Boy" dropped by a U.S. bomber exploded above Hiroshima killing an estimated 140,000 people by the end of that year.
A second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9 the same year and Japan surrendered six days later, prompting the end of World War II.
The anniversary came after the United States on Friday formally withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a major nuclear arms control pact with Russia signed in 1987, raising fears of a new arms race.
The development, combined with other pressing issues such as Iran's nuclear activity and denuclearization of North Korea, could add to global uncertainty before governments review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the keystone of the international nuclear disarmament regime, next spring.
Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki in November during the first papal visit to Japan since John Paul II toured in February 1981.
Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue has said he will also urge the Japanese government to support the treaty at this year's memorial ceremony to be held Friday in his city, as he has done in each of the past two years.
The combined number of surviving hibakusha from either bombing stood at 145,844 as of March, with their average age at 82.65.

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