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Nagasaki mayor stresses cruelty of nuclear weapons on anniversary of bombing

Utau-kai Himawari, a choir comprised of hibakusha, or atomic-bombing survivors, sings at Nagasaki Peace Park during a memorial ceremony for the Nagasaki atomic bombing on Aug. 9, 2016. (Mainichi)

NAGASAKI -- Mayor Tomihisa Taue emphasized the cruelty of nuclear weapons and appreciated a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama to Hiroshima this past May in a speech he delivered on the 71th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on Aug. 9.

A ceremony to mark the 71st anniversary of the bombing held at Peace Park in Nagasaki was attended by some 6,200 people, including hibakusha, or atomic-bombing survivors, the bereaved families of victims and local residents. Representatives of 53 countries including nuclear powers -- the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China -- were among them. It was the second largest number of countries represented at a ceremony to mark the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.

The attendees offered a silent prayer at 11:02 a.m. when the atomic bomb was dropped on the city 71 years ago.

In the Peace Declaration, Mayor Taue underscored the need to learn what happened to people who were exposed to radiation from atomic bombs as the first step toward nuclear disarmament.

"I appeal to the leaders of states which possess nuclear weapons and other countries, and to the people of the world: please come and visit Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Find out for yourselves what happened to human beings beneath the mushroom cloud. Knowing the facts becomes the starting point for thinking about a future free of nuclear weapons," the mayor said.

The mayor then urged nuclear powers, which have refused to participate in discussions at a U.N. working group on a legal framework for a ban on nuclear weapons, to participate in the talks.

Taue criticized the Japanese government for what he believes is its inconsistent policy on seeking nuclear disarmament.

"The government of Japan, while advocating nuclear weapons abolition, still relies on nuclear deterrence," he said.

Mayor Taue underscored the need to hand down the experience of the war and the atomic bombing to younger generations. "The world is steadily edging toward 'an era without any hibakusha.' The question we now face is how to hand down to future generations the experiences of war and the atomic bombing that was the result of that war," he said.

Taue did not make direct mention of the security legislation, which he had urged the Diet to cautiously deliberate last year, or moves to revise the war-renouncing Constitution. Instead, he touched on the peaceful ethos of the Constitution, and said, "Japan must continue to follow this path as a peaceful nation."

In the Commitment to Peace, Toyokazu Ihara, 80, president of the Nagasaki Prefecture Hibakusha Health Handbook Holders' Association, criticized the security legislation, which has opened the way for Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense in a limited way, as unconstitutional and demanded that the laws be scrapped.

In a speech at the ceremony, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appreciated Obama's visit to Hiroshima and pledged to urge both nuclear powers and non-nuclear powers to cooperate in efforts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons, which Obama advocates.

The prime minister once again stopped short of mentioning the war-renouncing Constitution while pledging to uphold the three non-nuclear principles of not possessing, not producing and not introducing nuclear weapons.

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