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Hiroshima pleads for peace, fears new arms race on atomic bomb anniversary

Written by Javed Iqbal

TOKYO, Aug 6 (Reuters) – Bells tolled in Hiroshima on Saturday as the city marked the 77th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bomb, with officials including the U.N. secretary general warning of a new arms race following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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

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

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“Nuclear weapons are nonsense. They guarantee no security – only death and destruction,” Guterres said.

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

Guterres avoided a 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 pointed and critical of Moscow’s military actions in Ukraine.

“By invading Ukraine, the Russian leader, elected to protect the lives and property of his people, is using them as instruments of war and stealing the lives and livelihoods of civilians in another country,” Matsui said.

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

“These errors betray humanity’s determination, born of our experience of war, to achieve a peaceful world free of nuclear weapons. To accept the status quo and abandon the ideal of peace maintained without military force is to threaten the very survival of humanity.”

At At 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945, the American B-29 warplane Enola Gay dropped a bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” and obliterated the city of an estimated population of 350,000. Several thousand later died from injuries and radiation-related illnesses.

On Saturday, as cicadas chirped in the heavy summer air, the peace bell rang and the crowd, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is from Hiroshima, observed a moment of silence at the exact moment the bomb exploded.

“At the start of this year, the five nuclear-weapon states issued a joint statement: ‘Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,'” Matsui added.

“Why are they not trying to fulfill their promises? Why are some even suggesting using nuclear weapons?”

On Thursday, the Russian ambassador to Japan, Mikhail Galuzin, offered flowers at a memorial stone in the park and told reporters that his nation would never use nuclear weapons. Read more

Kishida, who has chosen Hiroshima as the site for 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 the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Read more

“We will continue towards the ideal of nuclear disarmament, even given the current tough security environment,” he said.

The Hiroshima disaster was followed by the US military’s atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, instantly killing more than 75,000 people. Japan surrendered six days later, ending World War II.

In Hiroshima, Kishida also told Guterres that he strongly condemned China’s recent ballistic missile launches as “a serious matter concerning the security of Japan and the security of the Japanese,” according to a Saturday press release issued by the Foreign Ministry.

Kishida repeated the phrases he used a day earlier during a meeting with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose visit to Taiwan this week prompted an angry China to hold unprecedented live-fire drills in which five missiles landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. Read more

Kishida said he would work closely with Guterres in the wake of China’s action that “seriously affects the peace and stability of the international community,” the statement said.

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Reporting by Elaine Lies; Additional reporting by Kantaro Komiya; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Kim Coghill

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Javed Iqbal

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