HIROSHIMA: Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui urged the Japanese central government to sign the UN nuclear weapons ban treaty on the 76th anniversary of the US atomic bombing of the western Japan city Friday.
In this year’s Peace Declaration, read in an annual memorial ceremony at the city’s Peace Memorial Park, Matsui demanded the government’s “immediate signing and ratification” of the UN Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which took effect in January.
Matsui also requested the government to join the first meeting of the parties to the treaty and work for “productive mediation between the nuclear and nonnuclear weapon states.”
Japan, the only nation attacked with any nuclear weapon, has not signed the U.N. treaty considering its reliance on the U.S. nuclear umbrella.
He also demanded that the government provide relief to those exposed to the so-called radioactive black rain, which fell soon after the atomic bombing, given a finalized court ruling that recognized all plaintiffs in litigation on black-rain health damage as hibakusha atomic bomb survivors.
“The average age of our hibakusha is close to 84. I demand more generous assistance for them and the many others suffering daily due to the harmful physical and emotional effects of radiation,” he stressed.
Addressing world leaders, Matsui said, “The time has come for a profound tactical shift away from reliance on threats toward security based on trust derived from dialogue,” calling on global powers to fulfill the disarmament mandate under the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
“Nuclear weapons are the ultimate human violence. If civil society decides to live without them, the door to a nuclear-weapon-free world will open wide,” Matsui said.
He stressed that Hiroshima will “never stop preserving the facts of the bombing, disseminating them beyond borders, and conveying them to the future” and promote “a worldwide ‘culture of peace'” so that world leaders can find the courage to correct their policies.
After Matsui concluded his speech, doves were released into the sky. High school students sang in a chorus, but on a reduced scale than in past ceremonies due to the novel coronavirus crisis.
The ceremony was attended by about 780 people, including hibakusha, bereaved families of victims and representatives from 83 countries and the European Union.
Participants offered a minute of silence at 8:15 a.m. (11:15 p.m. Thursday GMT), the exact time when the U.S. atomic bomb was dropped on the city on Aug. 6, 1945. Another atomic bomb hit the city of Nagasaki, southwestern Japan, three days later.
In a speech at the ceremony, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga promised to pass down to future generations the correct recognition of the inhumanity of using nuclear weapons and continue working proactively to make the realities of the atomic bombings known more widely.
Referring to relief for the victims of black rain, Suga said, “We’ll consider the matter urgently.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a video message expressed concerns about the lack of progress toward the goal of achieving a nuclear-free world.
“The only guarantee against the use of nuclear weapons is their total elimination,” he said.
During the ceremony, Matsui and a bereaved family member placed into the Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Victims a list of 4,800 atomic bomb-affected people whose deaths were confirmed over the last year. There are a total of 328,929 victims’ names in the cenotaph now.
Across Japan, 127,755 people were registered as hibakusha as of the end of March this year, with their average age at 83.94, 0.63 higher than a year before.
Suga skipped parts of his speech by accident during the ceremony and apologized for that at a news conference later.