Bells rang in Hiroshima today to mark the 77th anniversary of the dropping of the world’s first atomic bomb, with the UN secretary-general and other officials sounding the alarm over a new arms race following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 and, shortly after, Kremlin strongman Vladimir Putin raised the possibility of a nuclear attack. Because of the hostilities, concern about the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants has also intensified.
Thousands of people flooded the “Peace Park” in Hiroshima to commemorate the approximately 140,000 victims of the bombing, shortly before the end of World War II. It was only the second time that the UN secretary general attended the anniversary events.
“Nuclear weapons are nonsense. They guarantee no security, only death and destruction,” Guterres stressed. “After three quarters of a century, we must ask ourselves what we learned from the mushroom that rose in the sky of this city in 1945,” he added.
Antonio Guterres avoided making direct reference to Russia, which calls the invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation”.
Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui, who this year did not invite the Russian ambassador to Japan to the event, was more scathing in his speech and criticized the military attack on Ukraine.
“By invading Ukraine, the Russian president, who was elected to protect the lives and property of his citizens, is using them as tools of war, taking the lives and livelihoods of civilians in another country,” Matsui said. .
“Around the world, the perception that peace depends on nuclear deterrence is gaining momentum,” he added.
“These mistakes betray humanity’s determination – born of our experience in war – to build a peaceful world, free of nuclear weapons,” the Hiroshima mayor said, adding that “the abandonment of the ideal of peace, which is maintained without military violence, threatens the very survival of the human race”.
It was 8:15 in the morning on August 6, 1945, when the American B-29 “Enola Gay” bomber dropped the “Little Boy” bomb and leveled Hiroshima, which at the time had a population of about 350,000. Thousands of people later died from the injuries and from radiation-related illnesses.
Today, when the clock struck 08:15 the “Peace Bell” rang and the crowd – among them Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, a native of Hiroshima – observed a minute’s silence and only the cicadas could be heard.
“At the beginning of the year, the five nuclear-weapon states issued a joint statement that ‘A nuclear war has no winners and should never begin.’ Why don’t they try to fulfill their promises? Why are some even hinting at the use of nuclear weapons?”, Hiroshima’s mayor stated emphatically.
On Thursday, Russian Ambassador to Japan Mikhail Galuzin laid flowers at the Hiroshima memorial and assured reporters that his country would never use nuclear weapons.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who has chosen Hiroshima to host the G7 summit next year, called on the world to give up nuclear weapons.
Days ago, he became the first Japanese leader to attend the conference on the revision of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). “We will continue (efforts) with the goal of nuclear disarmament, even in today’s tough security environment,” Kishida said.
The bombing of Hiroshima was followed by the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, killing more than 75,000 people. Japan capitulated after six days, ending World War II.