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

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by Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) – Bells rang in Hiroshima on Saturday as the city marked the 77th anniversary of the world’s first nuclear bombing, with officials including the UN secretary general warning of a new arms race following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine .

Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, and soon after, Russian President Vladimir Putin had explicitly raised the possibility of a nuclear attack. The conflict has also raised concerns about the security of Ukraine’s nuclear plants.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres joined the thousands packed into the Peace Park in the city center to mark the bombing anniversary of 140,000 people before the end of 1945, only the second time the UN Secretary-General has attended the annual ceremony.

Guterres said, “Nuclear weapons are rubbish. They do not guarantee security – only death and destruction.”

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

Guterres brushed aside 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 outspoken and critical of Moscow’s military actions in Ukraine.

Matsui said, “In invading Ukraine, Russian leaders, elected to protect the lives and property of their people, are using them as a means of war, stealing the lives and livelihoods of civilians in a different country.” are doing.”

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

“These errors betray the determination of humanity born out of our experiences of war to achieve a peaceful world free from nuclear weapons. To accept the status quo and abandon the ideal of peace maintained without military force. threat to its existence.”

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

On Saturday, as the sobs were heaving in the heavy heat, peace bells rang and the crowd, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is from Hiroshima, observed a moment of silence just in time for the bombings.

“Earlier this year, the five nuclear-weapon states issued a joint statement: ‘Nuclear war cannot and should never be fought,’” Matsui said.

“Why don’t they try to fulfill their promises? Why do some people even indicate using nuclear weapons?”

On Thursday, Russian Ambassador to Japan Mikhail Galujin laid flowers on a memorial stone in the park and told reporters that his country would never use nuclear weapons.

Kishida, who selected Hiroshima as the site of next year’s Group of Seven summit, called on the world to give up nuclear weapons.

Earlier this week, he became the first Japanese leader to attend a review conference of the parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

“We will continue to move towards the ideal of nuclear disarmament in the face of the current tight security environment,” he said.

On August 9, following the Hiroshima devastation, the US military carried out an atomic bombing of Nagasaki, which immediately killed more than 75,000 people. Japan surrendered six days later, ending World War II.

(Reporting by Ellen Lies; Editing by Mr. Navaratnam)