Hiroshima prays for peace, fears new arms race on anniversary of atomic bombing

TOKYO, Aug 6 (Reuters) – Bells rang in Hiroshima on Saturday as the city marked the 77th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, and soon after Russian President Vladimir Putin indirectly raised the possibility of a nuclear strike. The conflict has also heightened concerns about the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres joined thousands of people gathered in the Peace Park in the center of the city to mark the anniversary of the bombing that killed 140,000 people before At the end of 1945, it was only the second time that a UN Secretary General took part in the annual ceremony. .

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“Nuclear weapons are nonsense. They guarantee no security – only death and destruction,” said António Guterres.

“Three quarters of a century later, we have to wonder what we learned from the mushroom cloud that swelled over this city in 1945.”

António Guterres avoided a direct mention of Russia, which calls its invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation”.

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui, whose city did not invite the Russian ambassador to the ceremony this year, was more pointed and critical of Moscow’s military actions in Ukraine.

“By invading Ukraine, the Russian leader, elected to protect the lives and property of his people, is using them as instruments of war, stealing the lives and livelihoods of civilians in another country,” Matsui said.

“Around the world, the idea that peace depends on nuclear deterrence is gaining momentum,” Matsui added.

“These errors betray humanity’s determination, born of our experiences of war, to achieve a peaceful world free of nuclear weapons. To accept the status quo and abandon the ideal of peace maintained without military force is to threaten the very survival of the human race.”

At 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945, the American B-29 fighter plane Enola Gay dropped a bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” and wiped out the city with an estimated population of 350,000. Thousands more died later from radiation-related injuries and illnesses.

On Saturday, as cicadas howled in the heavy summer air, the peace bell rang and the crowd, including Hiroshima-born Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, observed a minute’s silence at the exact moment the bomb exploded.

“Early this year, the five nuclear-weapon states issued a joint statement: ‘Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,'” Matsui added.

“Why don’t they try to keep their promises? Why are some even hinting at the use of nuclear weapons?”

On Thursday, Russia’s Ambassador to Japan Mikhail Galuzin offered flowers at a memorial stone in the park and told reporters his country would never use nuclear weapons. Read more

Kishida, who chose Hiroshima as the site of the Group of Seven summit next year, called on the world to abandon nuclear weapons.

Earlier this week, he became the first Japanese leader to attend the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Read more

“We will continue towards the ideal of nuclear disarmament even given the current difficult security environment,” he said.

The Hiroshima disaster was followed by the atomic bombing of Nagasaki by the US military on August 9, instantly killing more than 75,000 people. Japan surrendered six days later, ending World War II.

In Hiroshima, Kishida also told António Guterres that he strongly condemned China’s recent ballistic missile launches as “a serious issue regarding Japan’s security and the security of the Japanese people,” according to a press release issued Saturday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Kishida repeated phrases he used the day before during a meeting with US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose visit to Taiwan this week prompted an angry China to hold drills unprecedented live fire in which five missiles landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. Read more

Kishida said he would work closely with António Guterres following China’s action which “seriously affects the peace and stability of the international community”, according to the statement.

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Reporting by Elaine Lies; Additional reporting by Kantaro Komiya; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Kim Coghill

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