In Hiroshima, Abe Calls for World Free of Nuclear Weapons

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Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
A woman prays in front of the monument for atomic bomb victims at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan. Photographer: Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated Japan’s call for a world free of atomic weapons at a ceremony in Hiroshima to mark the 70th anniversary of the first nuclear attack.

Abe made his remarks Thursday morning in front of thousands of people gathered in stifling heat, including elderly survivors and schoolchildren. Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, was the first official to be dispatched from Washington to the ceremony, also attended by U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy.

At 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945, the U.S. dropped a bomb containing about 50 kilograms of uranium on the city, a major industrial and military center, to hasten the end of World War II. The explosion flattened almost every building within a 2-kilometer (1.2-mile) radius, claiming the lives of about 140,000 people by the end of that year.

“Many precious lives were lost and the city was ruined,” Abe, wearing a black tie and suit with a white rosette, said at the ceremony. “Even those who survived suffered indescribably painful experiences,” he said, adding that the average age of those survivors is now over 80.

The ceremony was held in the city’s peace park in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome, the only building near the hypocenter that is still standing. It comes days before Abe is due to make a statement to mark the anniversary of Japan’s defeat on Aug. 15.

Abe told reporters in Hiroshima after the service that the statement will include reflection on the war, as well as how Japan will contribute to world peace in the future.

‘Special Duty’

As the only country to have experienced nuclear attacks -- Nagasaki was bombed three days later -- Japan has a special duty to work toward a world free of nuclear weapons, Abe told the audience after a minute’s silence. Japan will submit a fresh resolution on the abolition of atomic weapons to the United Nations General Assembly in the autumn, he said.

“The United States looks forward to continuing to work with Japan to advance President Obama’s goal of realizing a world without nuclear weapons,” Kennedy said in a statement. Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, a Hiroshima native, wrote in an article for CNN that progress in eliminating atomic bombs has been “much too slow.”

The calls for nonproliferation come as Japan prepares to restart a fleet of mothballed nuclear reactors, the first of which could come online as early as next week.

Nationalist Protests

Despite the ferocity of the final months of the war, Japan and the U.S. swiftly rebuilt their relationship and often refer to their alliance as the “cornerstone” of security in the region. With China’s military prowess growing, the allies updated their defense guidelines in April and Abe is pushing unpopular security bills through parliament to enable Japan’s armed forces to defend other countries.

Trucks carrying ultra-conservative activists parked near the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. The Japanese nationalists called through blaring speakers for the U.S. to take responsibility for war crimes and apologize for dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The embassy issued an advisory yesterday to American citizens to avoid areas of protests.

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