Hiroshima marks 76th anniversary of US atomic bombing

Hiroshima marks 76th anniversary of US atomic bombing

TOKYO (AP) — 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 global 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 near half-century of aggression in Asia.

Doves fly over the cenotaph dedicated to the victims of the atomic bombing during a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the bombing at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, western Japan Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. (Shingo Nishizume/Kyodo News via AP)

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.

A visitor prays in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, western Japan early Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. (Kyodo News via AP)

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.

Visitors pray in front of the cenotaph dedicated to the victims of the atomic bombing at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, western Japan Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. (Kyodo News via AP)

The government began to medically support certified survivors in 1968 after more than 20 years of effort by the survivors.

As of March, 127,755 survivors, whose average age is now almost 84, are certified as hibakusha and eligible for government medical support, according to the health and welfare ministry.

Suga announced last month the medical benefits would be extended to 84 Hiroshima survivors who had been denied aid because they were outside a government-set boundary. The victims were exposed to radioactive “black rain” that fell in the city after the bombing and fought a long legal battle for their health problems to be recognized.

A child prays in front of the cenotaph dedicated to the victims of the atomic bombing at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, western Japan Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. (Kyodo News via AP)

Matsui urged Suga’s government to further widen support and have generous assistance quickly reach all those still suffering physical and emotional effects of radiation, including the black rain survivors who were not part of the lawsuit.

Thursday’s ceremony at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was significantly scaled down because of the coronavirus pandemic and was also eclipsed by the Olympics being held in Tokyo, where even national NHK television quickly switched to the games after the main speeches.

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