Hiroshima vows nuclear weapons ban at 77 memorial amid Russian threat

TOKYO (AP) — Hiroshima recalled the atomic bombing 77 years ago on Saturday as officials including the United Nations chief warned against a buildup of nuclear weapons and as fears grow of another such attack amid Russia’s war. against Ukraine.

“Nuclear weapons are meaningless. They do not guarantee security, only death and destruction,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who joined the prayer at Hiroshima Peace Park.

“Three-quarters of a century later, we must ask ourselves what we have 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 people. 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 Russian threats of a nuclear strike since its war against Ukraine began in February.

“Crises with a serious nuclear background are spreading rapidly” in the Middle East and the Korean peninsula, Guterres said. “We are one mistake, one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from Armageddon.”

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui, in his peace declaration, accused 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 build support for a nuclear deterrent, 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 moment of silence to the sound of a peace bell at 8:15 am, the time 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 about the global backsliding on nuclear disarmament, stressing the importance of Japan, the only nation in the world to have suffered nuclear attacks, take leadership in the effort, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.

Kishida accompanied Guterres to the peace museum, where they each made 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. Russian Ambassador to Japan Mikhail Galuzin laid flowers Thursday at a memorial epitaph in the park and told reporters his country would never use nuclear weapons.

The world continues to face threats from nuclear weapons, Kishida said at the memorial.

“I must raise my voice to call on the people of the world so that the tragedy of the use of nuclear weapons is never repeated,” he said. “Japan will walk its path to a world without nuclear weapons, no matter how narrow, steep or difficult it may be.”

Kishida, who will host a summit meeting of the Group of Seven next May in Hiroshima, said he hoped to share his commitment with other G7 leaders “before the peace monument” to unite them to protect international peace and order. based on the universal values ​​of freedom and democracy.

Matsui criticized nuclear weapon states, including Russia, for failing to take action despite their commitment to fulfill obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

“Instead of treating a world without nuclear weapons as a distant dream, they should take concrete steps towards its realization,” he said.

Critics say Kishida’s call for a world free of nuclear weapons is false 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 the US and other nuclear powers lack, is unrealistic at the moment and Japan needs to bridge the gap between non-nuclear and nuclear powers.

Many survivors of the bombings have lasting injuries and illnesses as a result of 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 as eligible for government medical support, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare. But many others, including those who say they were victims of the “black rain” that fell outside the initially designated areas, remain without support.

The aging survivors, known in Japan as hibakusha, continue to push for a nuclear ban and hope to convince younger generations to join the movement.

Guterres had a message for young people: “Finish the work that the Hibakusha have begun. Carry their message forward. In their name, in their honor, in their memory, we must act.”

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