The bells rang in Hiroshima on Saturday as the city marked the 77th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing, with officials — including the United Nations Secretary-General — warning of a new arms race following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24; Shortly after the invasion began, Russian President Vladimir Putin obliquely pointed to 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 crammed into Hiroshima’s Peace Park, in the center of the city, to mark the anniversary of the bombing that left 140,000 dead in 1945. It is only the second time a UN secretary has General participates in the annual ceremony.
“Nuclear weapons are nonsense. They don’t guarantee security – only death and destruction,” Guterres said.
“Three quarters of a century later, we have to ask ourselves what we learned from the mushroom cloud that swelled over this city in 1945.”
Russian ambassador not invited to commemoration
Guterres dodged a direct mention of Russia calling the invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation.”
Hiroshima mayor Kazumi Matsui, whose city had not invited the Russian ambassador to the ceremony this year, was sharper and more critical of Moscow’s military actions in Ukraine.
“When invading Ukraine, the Russian leader, chosen to protect the lives and property of his people, uses them as instruments of war and steals the lives and livelihoods of civilians in another country,” Matsui said.
“Across the world, the idea that peace depends on nuclear deterrence is gaining traction,” the mayor added.
“These mistakes betray the determination of humanity, born of our wartime experiences, to achieve a peaceful world free of nuclear weapons. Accepting the status quo and renounce the ideal of peace maintained without military force constitutes a threat to the survival of humanity.”
Russian Ambassador to Japan Mikhail Galuzin offered flowers at a memorial in the park on Thursday and told reporters that his country would never use nuclear weapons.
Japanese PM calls for nuclear disarmament
On August 6, 1945 at 8:15 am, the American B-29 fighter plane Enola Gay dropped a bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” and destroyed the city, with an estimated population of 350,000. Thousands later died from injuries and radiation-related illnesses.
On Saturday, as crickets chimed in the heavy summer air, the peace bell sounded and the crowd, including Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is from Hiroshima, observed a moment of silence at the exact moment the bomb exploded.
Prime Minister Kishida, who has chosen Hiroshima as the venue 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 participate in the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPV).
“We will continue toward the ideal of nuclear disarmament, even given today’s difficult security environment,” he said.
The Hiroshima catastrophe was followed by the US military’s atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, which killed more than 75,000 people. Japan capitulated six days later, ending World War II.
26:21As the war in Ukraine rages, nuclear risk is assessed