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Nagasaki mayor calls for security policy independent of nuclear weapons

Students of Nagasaki Municipal Yamazato Elementary School sing at the Nagasaki Peace Memorial Ceremony at Nagasaki's Peace Park on Aug. 9, 2018. (Mainichi)

NAGASAKI -- Mayor Tomihisa Taue told a ceremony commemorating the 73rd bombing of this southern Japan city on Aug. 9, 1945, by the United States that nuclear weapons states and countries dependent on "nuclear umbrellas" should turn to national security policies not dependent on nuclear weapons.

Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue reads out the Peace Declaration at a ceremony marking the 73rd anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of the city, at Nagasaki's Peace Park, on Aug. 9, 2018. (Mainichi)

The mayor also urged Tokyo to support the United Nation's Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as the only country that suffered atomic bombings, and fulfill its ethical responsibility of leading the world toward the elimination of nuclear arms.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not mention the treaty in his speech at the Aug. 9 ceremony, just as he made no reference to it at a similar memorial marking the 73rd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

The Nagasaki ceremony was attended by some 5,800 hibakusha, or survivors of atomic bombings, and the family members of those killed by the American attacks, observing a minute of silence from 11:02 a.m. when the "Fat Man" plutonium bomb exploded above the city, killing at least 74,000 people by the end of 1945.

Participants also included U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who became the first chief of the world body to attend the Nagasaki ceremony, and representatives from 71 countries, including the five recognized nuclear weapons states -- the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France, which are permitted to possess the arms under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Mayor Taue said in his peace declaration, "I strongly request that you change to security policies not dependent on nuclear weapons before humanity once again commits a mistake that would create even more atomic bombing victims." He also urged people around the world to request their respective governments to sign the nuclear weapons ban treaty.

The mayor touched on the June 12 summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and expressed his hope that diplomacy "will lead to the realization of the irreversible denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula as agreed upon by the two leaders.

Calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons, Taue quoted the words of two leading hibakusha who passed away over the last year -- former Nagasaki University President Hideo Tsuchiyama, who died at age 92, and Sumiteru Taniguchi, senior member of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, who died at age 88.

"Human beings and nuclear weapons cannot co-exist. The suffering we went through is more than enough. For people to truly live as human beings, we cannot allow a single nuclear weapon to remain on the face of the Earth," Taniguchi was quoted as saying by Taue. The mayor then emphasized the need to pass on the war-renouncing Constitution to the next generation.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abe told the memorial that the government will firmly maintain the three non-nuclear principles that obligate Japan not to produce, possess, or allow transport into the country of nuclear weapons. The premier said Tokyo will try to serve as a bridge between nuclear and non-nuclear states, and lead international efforts to abolish nuclear arms.

U.N. Secretary General Guterres said that the total elimination of nuclear weapons "remains the highest disarmament priority of the United Nations."

Representing hibakusha, Terumi Tanaka, 86, a senior member of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, criticized the stance of the Japanese government opposing the nuclear weapons ban treaty as "extremely regrettable." Tanaka declared that he will do his best to create a world without nuclear weapons or wars.

The Aug. 9 ceremony included the dedication of a new list of 3,511 people who passed away during the past year after suffering from the atomic bombing 73 years ago. The number included 68 people who are not officially recognized by the central government as hibakusha because they were located outside the designated areas of radiation exposure. The total number of people who died as a result of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki now stands at 179,226.

(Japanese original by Yoshihito Asano, Nagasaki Bureau)

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