Saturday, August 9, 2008

Thousands remember atomic bombing of Nagasaki on 63rd anniversary

Thousands remember atomic bombing of Nagasaki on 63rd anniversary

People gather during a memorial ceremony at Nagasaki Peace Park on Saturday morning.
People gather during a memorial ceremony at Nagasaki Peace Park on Saturday morning.

NAGASAKI -- Thousands of people including atomic bomb survivors gathered in Nagasaki on Saturday in a ceremony to mark the 63rd anniversary of the Aug. 9, 1945 atomic bomb attack on the city.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Takashi Nagai (1908-1951), a physician who cared for wounded survivors, or hibakusha, in spite of his own injures. In a Peace Declaration during the ceremony at Nagasaki Peace Park, near ground zero, Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue quoted Nagai, saying, "There is no winning or losing in war; there is only ruin."

"There is no future for humans without the elimination of nuclear weapons," Taue said. He requested that Japan continue to take a leading role in working toward the elimination of nuclear weapons and turning into law Japan's three non-nuclear principles of neither possessing nor manufacturing nuclear weapons, nor permitting their introduction into Japan.

The ceremony began at 10:40 a.m., with about 5,650 people, including hibakusha, in attendance. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda attended the ceremony, along with House of Representatives Speaker Yohei Kono, Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe, and representatives of eight countries.

Last year, representatives of 15 countries attended the ceremony, but the number dropped this year as a result of the Beijing Olympic Games that began on Friday.

Russia was the only country possessing nuclear weapons to be represented at the ceremony. The United States, which recently acknowledged that a small amount of radioactive cooling water leaked from the nuclear powered submarine USS Houston when it called at ports in Japan, did not make an appearance again this year.

At the beginning of the ceremony, three books containing the names of 3,058 hibakusha whose deaths were confirmed over the past year were enshrined in front of a peace memorial statue. With the addition, there are now 147 books containing the names of 145,984 people who have died.

At 11:02 a.m., the minute the bomb exploded over the city, ceremony participants held a moment of silence.

In a Peace Declaration read out at the ceremony Taue mentioned that people including former U.S. secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Schulz had submitted an article on steps toward a nuclear free world, adding that the authors were promoting the United States ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

The declaration pointed out that Russia and the United States are said to together possess 95 percent of the world's nuclear warheads and said these two countries "should begin implementing broad reductions of nuclear weapons."

Speaking on hibakusha, whose average age passed 75 for the first time this year, the declaration urged the Japanese government to quickly provide atomic bomb survivors with "support that corresponds with their reality."

In an address at the ceremony, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who flew in directly from Beijing after attending the Olympic Games opening ceremony, said Japan would hold fast to the three non-nuclear principles and take the forefront on the international stage to eliminate nuclear weapons and achieve lasting peace. He added that Japan would abide by recently introduced guidelines for recognizing hibakusha and provide recognition to as many people as possible.

A representative of atomic bomb survivors also called for the elimination of nuclear weapons, describing them as weapons that in an instant burn everything, claim hundreds of thousands of lives, and leave people suffering all their lives even if they manage to survive.

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