Hiroshima on Saturday remembered the atomic bombing 77 years ago as officials, including the head of the United Nations, warned against nuclear weapons buildup and as fears grow of another such attack amid Russia's war on Ukraine.
“Nuclear weapons are nonsense. They guarantee no safety — only death and destruction," said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who joined the prayer at the Hiroshima Peace Park.
“Three quarters of a century later, we must ask what we’ve learned from the mushroom cloud that swelled above this city in 1945," he said.
The United States dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, destroying the city and killing 140,000 people. It dropped a second bomb three days later on Nagasaki, killing another 70,000. Japan surrendered on August 15, ending World War II and Japan’s nearly half-century of aggression in Asia.
Fears of a third atomic bombing have grown amid Russia’s threats of nuclear attack since its war on Ukraine began in February.
"Crises with grave nuclear undertones are spreading fast” in the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula, Guterres said. “We are one mistake, one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from Armageddon.”
On Saturday, attendees including government leaders and diplomats observed a moment of silence with the sound of a peace bell at 8.15 am, the time when the U.S. B-29 dropped the bomb on the city. About 400 doves, considered symbols of peace, were released.
Guterres met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida after the ceremony and raised alarm over the global retreat in nuclear disarmament, stressing the importance for Japan, the world's only nation to have suffered nuclear attacks, to take leadership in the effort, Japan's Foreign Ministry said.
Kishida escorted Guterres in the peace museum, where they each folded an origami crane — a symbol of peace and nuclear weapons abolition.
Many survivors of the bombings have lasting injuries and illnesses resulting from the explosions and radiation exposure and face discrimination in Japan.
The government began to provide medical support to certified survivors in 1968 after more than 20 years of effort by them.
As of March, 118,935 survivors, whose average age now exceeds 84, are certified as eligible for government medical support, according to the Health and Welfare Ministry. But many others, including those who say they were victims of the “black rain” that fell outside of the initially designated areas, are still without support.
Aging survivors, known in Japan as hibakusha, continue to push for a nuclear ban and hope to convince younger generations to join the movement.
(With inputs from AP)