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Nagasaki mayor urges Japan to ratify nuclear weapons ban treaty

People offer a prayer in front of the Peace Statue at Nagasaki Peace Park on Aug. 9, 2019. (Mainichi/Noriko Tokuno)

NAGASAKI -- Mayor Tomihisa Taue strongly urged Japan to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) as he read out the Peace Declaration at a ceremony to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the atomic-bombing of this southwestern Japan city on Aug. 9.

However, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stopped short of mentioning the treaty at the atomic-bombing anniversary ceremony for the third consecutive year during his speech.

Approximately 5,900 people, including survivors of the atomic-bombing, or hibakusha, as well as the bereaved families of victims, attended the ceremony that began at 10:45 a.m. They also included representatives of 66 countries including six of the eight countries possessing nuclear arms excluding India and Pakistan. The attendees offered a silent prayer at 11:02 a.m., the time the atomic bomb was dropped on the city 74 years ago.

In the Peace Declaration during the annual memorial ceremony, Mayor Taue warned that "the danger of a nuclear calamity is mounting."

He then said, "The opinion that nuclear weapons are useful is once again gaining traction."

Taue expressed grave concerns about the United States and Russia's development of new types of nuclear arms and the prospect of nuclear disarmament following the Aug. 2 expiration of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Bearing in mind the fact that next year will mark 50 years since the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons came into force, the mayor urged nuclear powers to steadily reduce their nuclear arsenals with the ultimate goal of complete nuclear abolition.

Taue criticized the Japanese government for refusing to approve the TPNW, saying that "Japan has turned its back" on the treaty. He then urged Japan, as the only country in the world to have experienced the wartime devastation caused by nuclear weapons, to sign and ratify the treaty as soon as possible. The TPNW that was adopted at the United Nations in 2017 has not yet gone into effect.

At the outset of the declaration, the mayor cited a poem composed by 91-year-old Kazuko Yamaguchi, who was exposed to radiation following the Nagasaki bombing at age 17 and lost her family, to express the tragedy and his earnest hope for elimination of nuclear weapons.

The mayor said nuclear weapons "built by human hands and exploded over human heads" can be "eliminated by an act of human will." He then urged civil society throughout the world for solidarity.

Prime Minister Abe said Japan will continue to be a "bridge between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states" and take the leadership in efforts in the international community toward nuclear disarmament. However, he stopped short of mentioning the TPNW.

In the Commitment to Peace read out on behalf of Nagasaki hibakusha, Yoshiro Yamawaki, 85, called on Prime Minister Abe to urge all nuclear weapons states to eliminate nuclear arms. He emphasized that doing so is a way to recompense the lives of atomic-bombing victims and hibakusha who are still suffering from the after-effects of exposure to radiation.

The names of 3,402 hibakusha who died over the past year or whose deaths were confirmed over the past year were added to the list of victims, bringing the total number of victims to 182,601.

(Japanese original by Yuki Imano, Nagasaki Bureau)

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