Nagasaki marked the 74 anniversary on Friday of the US bombing of the city in World War II, with Mayor Tomihisa Taue calling for the Japanese government's annual ceremony to immediately sign a UN treaty banning the use of nuclear weapons.
"As the only country in the world to suffer from nuclear weapon devastation, Japan must sign and ratify the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty as soon as possible," Taue said in the annual statement.
The mayor had urged the central government to sign the international treaty at the two previous annual ceremonies, but this year he used a stronger and more direct expression.
The treaty was adopted in July from 2017 by 122 UN members, but is not yet in force as it has not been ratified by the required 50 states. Japan has refused to sign the treaty with other countries under the US nuclear umbrella, as well as the world's nuclear weapons states.
A moment of silence was observed at 11h02, at the exact time on 9 August 1945, when a plutonium atomic bomb, codenamed “Fat Man”, dropped by an American bomber, exploded over the southwestern city of Japan. days after the US States dropped the world's first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised at the ceremony that Japan will continue its efforts to be a "bridge between nuclear-weapon countries and non-nuclear-weapon states" and to realize a world without nuclear weapons. But he did not refer to the treaty.
At a news conference after attending the ceremony, Abe reiterated that Japan is not considering participating in the treaty, which he says does not reflect security realities.
Attended by around 5.200 people and representatives from around 70 countries, including all five recognized nuclear powers - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - as well as the United Nations and the European Union, the annual memorial ceremony of Nagasaki was held in its Peace Park.
As a step towards joining the treaty, Taue urged Japan to “take advantage of the denuclearization trend on the Korean peninsula and start efforts to make Northeast Asia a nuclear-free zone where all countries coexist, not a 'guardian'. nuclear rain ', but a non-nuclear umbrella.
Civil society groups, including atomic bomb survivors, "showed the power of power and again change the world," he said, citing the important role played by citizens in concluding the treaty. "The power of a single individual is small but not weak."
He also said that the world is now in an “extremely dangerous” situation, as the view that nuclear weapons are useful is “once again gaining strength” and “the danger of a nuclear calamity is increasing”.
Referring to the revision of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty next spring, the cornerstone of the international nuclear disarmament regime, Taue said: "All nuclear states must remember the meaning of the treaty."
Anniversary ceremonies in the two atom-bombed Japanese cities were held amid growing concern over a new arms race following the formal withdrawal of the United States from the Mid-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed with Russia on 1987.
Taue urged the United States and Russia to "take responsibility as nuclear superpowers, demonstrating to the world concrete ways to drastically reduce nuclear stocks."
“Atomic bombs were built by human hands and exploded over human heads. That is why nuclear weapons can be eliminated by an act of human will, ”said the mayor.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a message: "The only real guarantee against the use of nuclear weapons is their total elimination," adding: "This remains the priority of the United Nations and my personal disarmament."
Facing the scorching sun since early morning, locals and visitors from outside the city gathered in the park to mourn those who perished in the atomic bomb attack and pray for peace.
63 Midori Kawajiri, a native of Nagasaki, said his mother, who survived the bombing, barely talked about it while she was alive. But Kawajiri believes that Nagasaki residents should pass on victims' stories to future generations amid concerns about aging survivors.
"Of course I understand your feelings (of reluctance to talk about your experience), but now it seems that some countries are about to start a war, so such a situation makes it even more important to surrender the memories of individuals," she said.
Pope Francis is due to travel to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in November during the first papal visit to Japan since John Paul II's visit in February 1981.
Nagasaki has numerous sites linked to the history of Japanese Christians who were persecuted in the 17th to 19th centuries.
74.000 people are estimated to have died as a result of the Nagasaki atomic bombing by the end of 1945, according to the city.
The combined number of hibakusha survivors of the two atomic bombings stood at 145.844 in March, down about 9.000 from a year earlier, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said, noting that its average age was 82,65.