Japan’s prime minister has hit out at Russian threats to use nuclear weapons as the country marked the 78th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
Around 140,000 people died in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and 74,000 in Nagasaki three days later, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on the two Japanese cities days before the end of World War II.
Japan is marking 78 years since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki pic.twitter.com/PofW1PX1Ib
— Reuters (@Reuters) August 5, 2023
“Japan, as the only nation to have suffered atomic bombings in war, will continue efforts towards a nuclear-free world,” said Fumio Kishida at a ceremony in Hiroshima on Sunday.
“The path towards it is becoming increasingly difficult because of deepening divisions in the international community over nuclear disarmament and Russia’s nuclear threat.”
In July Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy secretary of Russia’s powerful Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin, said that the increase in military assistance to Ukraine by the NATO alliance brings World War Three closer.
Hiroshima mayor urged the abolition of nuclear weapons
Speaking at the ceremonies, the Hiroshima mayor urged the abolition of nuclear weapons and called the G7 leaders’ notion of nuclear deterrence a “folly”.
On Sunday a peace bell tolled at 8.15 am, the time the bomb was dropped. About 50,000 participants in the outdoor memorial ceremony including ageing survivors observed a moment of silence, with the summer heat hitting 30C (86F).
The day to commemorate the victims of the world’s first nuclear attack comes as Russian officials have talked about using nuclear weapons in the war with Ukraine. Western authorities have said there is no evidence of Russia preparing such an attack.
“Leaders around the world must confront the reality that nuclear threats now being voiced by certain policymakers reveal the folly of nuclear deterrence theory,” said the Hiroshima mayor, Kazumi Matsui.
The ceremony was also attended by Fumio Kishida, the Japanese prime minister, who said the road to a world without nuclear weapons was getting steeper due in part to Russia’s nuclear threats, but this made it all the more important to bring back international momentum towards that goal.
The UN secretary general, António Guterres, expressed his support.
“World leaders have visited this city, seen its monuments, spoken with its brave survivors, and emerged emboldened to take up the cause of nuclear disarmament,” he said in remarks read by a UN representative.
“More should do so, because the drums of nuclear war are beating once again.”
The bomb dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, nicknamed Little Boy, killed thousands instantly and about 140,000 by the end of the year. Japan surrendered on 15 August.