Japan is observing the 73rd anniversary of the atomic bombing of its southwestern city of Nagasaki today. 73 years ago American forces carried out their second atomic bomb attack on the country during World War Two. A memorial service was held in the city of Nagasaki where the bomb was dropped, just 3 days after the first one leveled Hiroshima.
For the first time a United Nations Secretary-General took part in the Nagasaki ceremony.
Antonio Guterres will take part in the event, becoming the first United Nations Chief to participate. He will be joined by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the survivors of the attack and the families of victims.
The names of 3,511 hibakusha, who died during the past year, will be added to the victims’ roster and placed in the cenotaph.
Participants will observe a minute of silence at 11:02 AM – the exact time the bomb was dropped by the US on 9th August 1945.
The city’s Peace Park fell silent at 11:02 AM — the exact moment the bomb exploded in 1945.
The total elimination of nuclear weapons is the highest disarmament priority of the United Nations. Here in Nagasaki, on the 73rd anniversary of the atomic bombing, let us commit to make Nagasaki the last place on earth to suffer nuclear devastation. pic.twitter.com/Q14BVeaFqK
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) August 9, 2018
More than 70,000 people died in that year alone, and many others from long-term effects. 3,511 survivors passed away this year, including a leading advocate for nuclear disarmament.
Among the thousands in attendance were dignitaries of more than 70 countries. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also joined.
The average age of the remaining survivors, known as hibakusha, is now over 82.
An atomic bomb survivor, Terumi Tanaka said, “To this day, I cannot erase from my memory the horrifying scene I witnessed in the Urakami area that day. In a matter of seconds, the atomic bomb indiscriminately stole many lives and injured a great number of people. It will continue to haunt the hibakusha until the day they die. Of all the things humans can do to one another, this is one that can never be forgiven or tolerated.”
Tanaka was 13 at the time of the blast and lost 5 relatives on that day. He led a national group of bombing survivors for nearly 2 decades and has dedicated his life to telling his story to people around the world.
The anniversary comes as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted at the UN last year.
Nuclear powers such as the US and Russia didn’t support the adoption and have not signed it. Japan which is protected by America’s nuclear umbrella also has not signed it. For the treaty to come into force, 50 countries need to ratify it, but so far only 14 have.
The mayor of Nagasaki made an appeal to nuclear powers and countries that depend on their protection — he then specifically called on the Japanese government.
Mayor Taue said, “I strongly request that you change your security policies so your countries do not depend on nuclear weapons. I urge you to do so before humanity once again commits a mistake that would result in even more atomic bomb victims. I hereby ask that the Government of Japan, the only country to have suffered from the wartime use of nuclear weapons, support the nuclear weapons ban treaty. I also ask the government to fulfill its moral obligation to lead the world towards denuclearization.”
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe maintains Japan will not sign the treaty. Abe has said his country shares the treaty’s goal of abolishing nuclear weapons, but not its approach.
Abe said, “To truly achieve a world without nuclear weapons, we need to start by clearly understanding that nuclear bomb attacks have tragic results. We also need to get cooperation from countries with and without nuclear weapons. Japan is determined to act as a bridge between the 2 sides and lead the efforts of the international community. We are committed to the three principles of not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear arms on our territory.”
In his speech, the UN Secretary-General highlighted how nuclear states are ramping up their arsenals. Guterres also pointed to the slow progress towards nuclear abolition and made his own appeal.
Guterres said, “Here in Nagasaki, I call on countries to commit to nuclear disarmament and to start making visible progress as a matter of urgency.”
Many in Nagasaki are spending the day reflecting on the past and praying for peace.- (INPUT FROM NHK)