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 nuclear bomb have grown amid Russia’s threats of nuclear strikes since the war against Ukraine began in February.
“Crises with serious nuclear undertones are spreading rapidly” in the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula, Guterres said. “We are one mistake, one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from Armageddon.”
Hiroshima’s mayor, Kazumi Matsui, in his peace declaration accused Putin of “using his own people as instruments of war and stealing the lives and livelihoods of innocent civilians in another country.”
Russia’s war on Ukraine is helping build support for nuclear deterrence, Matsui said, urging the world not to repeat the mistakes that destroyed his city nearly eight decades ago.
On Saturday, participants, including government leaders and diplomats, observed a moment of silence with the sounding of a peace bell at 8:15 a.m., the time the US B-29 dropped the bomb on the city. About 400 pigeons, considered symbols of peace, were released.
Guterres met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida after the ceremony and raised the alarm over the global retreat on nuclear disarmament and stressed the importance of Japan, the world’s only nation to have suffered a nuclear attack, taking the lead in the effort, Japan’s foreign ministry said.
Kishida escorted Guterres into the Peace Museum, where they each folded an origami crane – a symbol of peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Russia and its ally Belarus were not invited to this year’s peace memorial. Russian Ambassador to Japan Mikhail Galuzin offered flowers at a memorial in the park on Thursday and told reporters his country would never use nuclear weapons.
The world continues to face threats from nuclear weapons, Kishida said at the memorial.
“I must raise my voice to appeal to people around the world that the tragedy of nuclear weapons use must never be repeated,” he said. “Japan will make its way to a world without nuclear weapons, no matter how narrow, steep or difficult it may be.”
Kishida, who will host a Group of Seven summit next May in Hiroshima, said he hoped to share his pledge with other G-7 leaders “before the peace monument” to unite them to protect peace and international order based on the universal values of freedom and democracy.
Matsui criticized nuclear-weapon states, including Russia, for not taking action despite their pledge to abide by obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
“Instead of treating a world without nuclear weapons as a distant dream, they should take concrete steps towards its realization,” he said.
Critics say Kishida’s call for a nuclear-free world is hollow because Japan remains under the US nuclear umbrella and continues to boycott the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Kishida said the treaty, which lacks the United States and other nuclear powers, is not realistic at the moment and that Japan needs to bridge the gap between non-nuclear powers and nuclear powers.
Many survivors of the bombings have permanent injuries and illnesses from the explosions and radiation exposure and face discrimination in Japan.
The government began providing medical support to certified survivors in 1968 after more than 20 years of efforts by them.
As of March, 118,935 survivors, whose average age now exceeds 84, have been certified as eligible for government medical aid, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare. But many others, including those who say they were victims of the “black rain” that fell outside the originally designated areas, remain 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.
Guterres had a message for younger people: “Finish the work that the hibakusha have started. Carry their message forward. In their names, in their honor, in their memory – we must act.”