TOKYO – The Japanese city of Nagasaki on Sunday commemorated the 75th anniversary of the US nuclear attack on the town, as the mayor and dwindling survivors urged world leaders, including the head of his government, to do more to ban the nuclear weapons.
At 11:02 a.m., the moment the B-29 Bockscar bomber dropped a 4.5-ton (10,000-pound) plutonium bomb, survivors and other participants in the event rose to their feet for a minute’s silence in memory of the more than 70,000 dead.
The August 9, 1945 attack came three days after the United States dropped its first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the world’s first nuclear attack, which killed 140,000 people. On August 15, Japan’s surrender ended World War II.
At the rally in the Nagasaki Peace Park, reduced by the coronavirus pandemic, the mayor, Tomihisa Taue, read a peace declaration in which he expressed concern that the nuclear states have withdrawn from disarmament efforts in the last years.
Instead, he said, they are upgrading and downsizing nuclear weapons to facilitate their use. Taue singled out the United States and Russia for increasing risk by distancing themselves from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
“As a result, the threat of nuclear weapons being used is becoming more and more real,” Taue said. Noting that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty entered into force 50 years ago, Taue urged Washington and Moscow to find a “viable path” toward nuclear disarmament in the treaty revision process next year.
Authorities in Japan want to know where the blast occurred and what was the level of hydrogen generated.
“The true horror of nuclear weapons has not yet been adequately transmitted to the world as a whole” despite the efforts of the hibakusha, or atomic bomb survivors, he noted.
He also urged the government and lawmakers in Japan to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, established in 2017, in a hurry.
After participating in the ceremony, the Prime Minister of Japan. Shinzo Abe criticized the treaty for being unrealistic. None of the nuclear states has joined and does not have majority support even among non-nuclear states, he said.
“The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted without taking into account the reality of the harsh national security environment,” Abe told a news conference. “I must say that the treaty differs from Japan’s position and strategy” even though they both share the goal of abolishing nuclear weapons, he said.
Abe has repeatedly refused to sign the text and reiterated that Japan does not want to choose a side, but to serve as a bridge between states with nuclear weapons and those that do not have them, to promote dialogue and reach a ban. Survivors and peace groups say that in practice, Japan is siding with the United States and other nuclear states.
Although Tokyo renounces owning, producing or storing nuclear weapons, as an ally of the United States it is home to 50,000 American troops and is protected by American nuclear weapons. The security agreements signed after World War II make it difficult for Japan to sign the treaty while strengthening its armed forces in the face of threats from North Korea and China, among others.
The act to commemorate the nuclear bomb that destroyed Hiroshima 75 years ago served this Thursday to insist on the need for the Government of Japan, the only country that has suffered an atomic attack, to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons approved ago three years within the UN.
A group of survivors have expressed a growing sense of urgency to tell their stories in hopes of reaching out to younger generations to continue their efforts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons.
“We survivors don’t have much time left,” said Shigemi Fukabori, 89. When Nagasaki was bombed, he was a 14-year-old student mobilized to work in a shipyard.
“I am determined to continue telling my story so that Nagasaki is the last place on Earth to suffer an atomic attack,” he said.
Fukabori, who lost four brothers almost instantly, said he would never forget the piles of charred bodies, the wrecked trams and the wounded desperately crying out for help and water as he ran back home from Urakami Cathedral, which also it was almost destroyed. “We don’t want anyone else to go through this,” he said.