Nagasaki has marked the 76th anniversary of the US atomic bombing of the Japanese city with its mayor urging Japan, the United States and Russia to do more to eliminate nuclear weapons.
In his speech at the Nagasaki Peace Park, Mayor Tomihisa Taue urged Japan’s government to take the lead in creating a nuclear-free zone in Northeast Asia rather than staying under the US nuclear umbrella.
The umbrella is a term used to describe the US promise to use its own nuclear weapons to defend allies who do not have them.
Mr Taue also singled out the United States and Russia – which have the biggest arsenals by far – to do more for nuclear disarmament, as he raised concern that nuclear states have backtracked from disarmament efforts and are upgrading nuclear weapons.
Urging Japan’s government to do more to take action for nuclear disarmament, he said: “Please look into building a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Northeast Asia that would create a ‘non-nuclear umbrella’ instead of a ‘nuclear umbrella’ and be a step in the direction of a world free of nuclear weapons.”
At 11.02am, the moment the B-29 bomber dropped a plutonium bomb, Nagasaki survivors and other participants in the ceremony stood in a minute of silence to honour more than 70,000 lives lost.
The bombing, on August 9, 1945, came three days after the United States made the world’s first atomic attack on Hiroshima, killing 140,000.
Japan surrendered on August 15, ending the Second World War.
The mayor also called Japan’s government and politicians to quickly sign the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that took effect in January.
Tokyo renounces its own possession, production or hosting of nuclear weapons but, as a US ally, Japan hosts 50,000 American troops and is protected by the US nuclear umbrella.
The post-Second World War security arrangement complicates the push to get Japan to sign the treaty as it beefs up its own military while stepping up defence cooperation with other nuclear-weapons states such as Britain and France, to deal with threats from North Korea and China, among others.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the security environment is severe and that global views are deeply divided over nuclear disarmament, and that it is necessary to remove distrust by promoting dialogue and form a mutual ground for discussion.
Mr Taue also called for a substantial progress toward nuclear disarmament made at next year’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference, “starting with greater steps by the US and Russia to reduce nuclear weapons”.
He asked Mr Suga’s government to step up and speed up medical and welfare support for the aging atomic bombing survivors, or hibakusha, whose average age is now over 83 years.