NAGASAKI/TOKYO • The Japanese city of Nagasaki yesterday commemorated the 75th anniversary of its destruction by a US atomic bomb, with its mayor and the head of the United Nations warning against a nuclear arms race.
Nagasaki was flattened in an atomic inferno three days after a similar attack on Hiroshima – twin strikes that rang in the nuclear age and gave Japan the bleak distinction of being the only country to be struck by atomic weapons.
Survivors, their relatives and a handful of foreign dignitaries attended a ceremony in Nagasaki where they called for world peace. Participants offered a silent prayer at 11.02am, the time the second and last nuclear weapon used in wartime was dropped over the city.
“The true horror of nuclear weapons has not yet been adequately conveyed to the world at large” despite decades of effort by survivors telling of their “hellish experience”, said Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue in a speech.
“If, as with the coronavirus – which we did not fear until it began to spread among our immediate surroundings – humanity does not become aware of the threat of nuclear weapons until they are used again, we will find ourselves in an irrevocable predicament.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in a message read by his undersecretary Izumi Nakamitsu, warned that “the prospect of nuclear weapons being used intentionally, by accident or miscalculation, is dangerously high”. He said: “The historic progress in nuclear disarmament is in jeopardy… This alarming trend must be reversed.”
The number of participants in this year’s ceremony was reduced to roughly one-tenth the figure in previous years due to coronavirus fears, with proceedings broadcast live online in Japanese and English.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe refreshed his pledge that Japan would lead “the international community’s efforts towards the realisation of a nuclear-free world”. The remembrance comes as worries linger over the nuclear threat from North Korea and growing tensions between the US and China over issues including security and trade.
Meanwhile, Mr Abe will refrain from visiting the Yasukuni shrine for war dead on the 75th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II, Jiji news agency said yesterday, but he will make an offering on that day, as he has done in the past.
Mr Abe’s last visit to the shrine, soon after he took office in December 2013, caused outrage in China and South Korea, which see the visits as a sign that Japan has not repented for its militarist past and war atrocities.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS