Hiroshima on Friday marked the 76th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing, as the mayor of the Japanese city urged global leaders to unite to eliminate nuclear weapons, just as they are united against the coronavirus.
Mayor Kazumi Matsui urged world leaders to commit to nuclear disarmament as seriously as they tackle a pandemic that the international community recognizes as a “threat to humanity.”
“Nuclear weapons, developed to win wars, are a threat of total annihilation that we can certainly end, if all nations work together,” Matsui said.
The United States dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, destroying the city and killing 140,000 people. It dropped a second bomb three days later on Nagasaki, killing another 70,000. Japan surrendered Aug. 15, ending World War II and its nearly half-century of aggression in Asia.
But countries stockpiled nuclear weapons in the Cold War and a standoff continues to this day.
Matsui renewed his demand that Japan's government “immediately” sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga did not mention the treaty in his speech at the Hiroshima Peace Park ceremony, where aging survivors, officials and some dignitaries observed a minute of silence for the 8:15 a.m. blast. At a news conference later, Suga said he has no intention of signing the treaty.
“The treaty lacks support not only from the nuclear weapons states including the United States but also from many countries that do not possess nuclear arms,” Suga said. “What’s appropriate is to seek a passage to realistically promote the nuclear disarmament.”
The global Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons took effect in January after years of civil effort joined by the atomic bombing survivors, or hibakusha. But while more than 50 countries have ratified it, the treaty notably lacks the U.S. and other nuclear powers as well as Japan, which has relied on the U.S. nuclear umbrella for its defense since the war’s end.
After the ceremony, Suga apologized for inadvertently skipping parts of his speech. Parts that were dropped included his pledge to pursue efforts toward achieving a nuclear free world as head of the world’s only country to have suffered atomic attacks fully aware of the inhumanity of the nuclear weapons, according to his speech posted on the Prime Minister’s Office.
Some said Suga skipping those parts of his speech spotlighted what could be seen as government hypocrisy over nuclear disarmament and the treatment of atomic bombing survivors.
“The important point is that his heart wasn’t simply there,” former Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, told an online news conference later Friday, referring to Suga.
Many survivors of the bombings have lasting injuries and illnesses linked to the bombs and radiation exposure and faced discrimination in Japanese society.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.