The mayor of Nagasaki on Sunday pushed the Japanese government to take the initiative amid an absence of global leadership to create a world free of nuclear weapons, during a memorial marking the 75th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of the city.
Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue appealed to the government, asking it to sign and ratify a U.N. treaty banning nuclear arsenals which was adopted in 2017 but has yet to come into force.
"If, as with the novel coronavirus which we did not fear until it began spreading among our immediate surroundings, humanity does not become aware of the threat of nuclear weapons until they are used again, we will find ourselves in an irrevocable predicament," he said in his speech at the southwestern Japanese city's Peace Park.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, however, avoided any reference to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons when addressing the crowd which included survivors and families of the victims, casting light on Japan's conflicted position given it is under the protection of the U.S. nuclear umbrella.
After a moment of silence was observed at 11:02 a.m., the exact time of the bombing on Aug. 9, 1945, Taue said recent developments by nuclear-weapon states "go back on the promise" to disarm, and urged the international community to heed calls by atomic-bomb survivors to bring the treaty into effect as soon as possible.
"Among the nuclear-weapon states and countries under the nuclear umbrella there have been voices stating that it is too early for such a treaty," he said. "That is not so. Rather, nuclear arms reductions are far too late in coming."
On the occasion of the annual event, British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, who was born in Nagasaki nine years after the bombing, sent a message, saying, "Let us not forget how fragile our civilization remains" and emphasized the "supreme value of human life."
The momentum for international cooperation is weakening, with the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty between the United States and Russia set to expire in six months. Many worry the world is entering a phase in which there is an increased risk of an unconstrained global arms race.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres also warned that the "historic progress in nuclear disarmament is in jeopardy, as the web of instruments and agreements designed to reduce the danger of nuclear weapons and bring about their elimination is crumbling."
"This alarming trend must be reversed," he said in a message read at the service, which only allowed some 500 guests due to the coronavirus pandemic, about 10 percent of the number in recent years.
While there were representatives from about 70 countries in attendance, Abe's speech was almost a carbon copy of what he said three days ago at a ceremony in Hiroshima, the other Japanese city devastated by an atomic bomb during World War II, where he said the government remains committed to a world free of nuclear weapons.
But due to a decades-old security accord with the United States, Japan has joined with the world's nuclear-weapon states in refusing to participate in the U.N. treaty.
At a press conference later in the day, Abe said Japan will not be part of the treaty although it "shares the same goal" of scrapping nuclear weapons.
"The treaty was created without considering the reality of security," he said. "I have to say the treaty takes a different approach from the standpoint of our country."
On Sunday, the Caribbean nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis ratified the treaty, according to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.
Ireland, Nigeria and Niue also completed ratification procedures for the treaty on Thursday. Before the pact was adopted, nuclear arms were the only weapons of mass destruction not subject to a comprehensive ban.
The treaty now needs six more ratifications to reach the threshold of 50 required for its entry into force.
Despite the heat and occasional rain showers, people visited the park to pray for victims. However, the crowd was smaller than usual, with some coming earlier than in previous years to prevent infection.
"I still remember that day. I can still recall vividly what the bomb did," said 92-year-old survivor Miyako Takashima. "I was so shocked that I was out of words and couldn't even cry that day."
"I felt a sense of guilt that I survived when so many of my friends didn't. We don't need something in the world that makes you feel that way or that creates sadness," she said.
An early-morning service was held at a nearby cathedral. Nagasaki has numerous sites linked to the history of Japan's Christians, who were persecuted in the 17th to 19th centuries.
Pope Francis visited Nagasaki and Hiroshima last year, where he delivered powerful anti-nuclear messages of peace.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the nine nuclear-armed states -- Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States -- together had an estimated 13,400 nuclear warheads at the start of 2020.
An estimated 214,000 people died from the two bombings, the world's only nuclear attacks in war, by the end of 1945.
This year, Nagasaki has confirmed a further 3,406 deaths of survivors, bringing the number of deaths of people recognized as victims to 185,982. Hiroshima has registered a total of 324,129 such deaths.
The combined number of hibakusha, or survivors of the atomic bombings, stood at 136,682 as of March, down about 9,200 from a year earlier, the welfare ministry said, adding their average age was 83.31.
The following is the full text of the Peace Declaration read Sunday by Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue at a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city.
Exactly 75 years have passed since the day our city was assaulted by a nuclear bomb. Despite the passing of three quarters of a century, we are still living in a world where nuclear weapons exist.
Just why is it that we humans are still unable to rid ourselves of nuclear weapons? Are we truly unable to abandon these dreadful weapons that so cruelly take lives without even allowing for dignified deaths and force people to suffer for entire lifetimes as the result of radiation?
Songwriter Fumio Kino lost his wife and children to the atomic bomb on that August 9th 75 years ago and went on to express his sadness and feelings about peace through music. In his memoirs he wrote the following:
The tragedy that unfolded beneath the reddish-black mushroom cloud that spread out on that day is deeply embedded in my heart. The awful sight of hideously burned people covered in flames; innumerable corpses scorched until they were almost carbonized and spread around the debris like logs; women wandering about with leaden eyes; phantasmagoric visions such as this vividly revisit my mind as the day of August 9th comes around each year.
In order to see that no one else ever goes through such a hellish experience, the hibakusha, or atomic bombing survivors, have fervently striven to inform us about what went on underneath that mushroom cloud. However, the true horror of nuclear weapons has not yet been adequately conveyed to the world at large. If, as with the novel coronavirus which we did not fear it until it began spreading among our immediate surroundings, humanity does not become aware of the threat of nuclear weapons until they are used again, we will find ourselves in an irrevocable predicament.
This year marks the 50th year since the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT, entered into force. This treaty, which promised that there would be no increase in nuclear-weapon states and that nuclear disarmament negotiations would be pursued in good faith, is extremely an important agreement for humankind. However, in the past few years motions by the nuclear-weapon states to go back on the promise of nuclear disarmament have been increasing, as evidenced by initiatives such as the scrapping of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF Treaty. In addition to that, the development and deployment of newer, more sophisticated nuclear weapons and smaller, easier-to-use nuclear weapons, is proceeding. As a result, the threat of nuclear weapons being used is increasingly becoming real.
"Only 100 seconds remain." In order to symbolize this state of crisis, the "Doomsday Clock", an indicator of the time left until the earth's extinction, was set at its shortest time ever this year.
Three years ago, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted by the United Nations. This treaty clearly states that nuclear weapons should be eliminated in accordance with the wishes of humanity. Among the nuclear-weapon states and countries under the nuclear umbrella there have been voices stating that it is too early for such a treaty. That is not so. Rather, nuclear arms reductions are far too late in coming.
It is now 75 years since the atomic bombings and the founding of the United Nations. Having reached this milestone, we should now be remembering that humanity itself promised to eliminate nuclear weapons in Resolution 1 of the U.N. General Assembly.
When the Pope visited Nagasaki last year, he said two things that may be keys. The first was that "To make this ideal (of a world of peace, free from nuclear weapons) a reality calls for involvement on the part of all." The second was that "There is a need to break down the (growing) climate of distrust."
I hereby appeal to everyone around the world.
There are innumerable ways that we can become involved in working for peace.
This year, many people have been applauding the continued efforts by those in the medical profession to battle the novel coronavirus. In the same way, let us now applaud with heartfelt respect and gratitude the hibakusha who, while enduring physical and mental pain, have spoken out about their painful experiences for the 75 years since the time of atomic bombing until today in order to provide a warning to people around the world.
With this applause, an act of only 10 seconds or so, we are able to spread the circle of peace. The message of high school students which hangs in this tent today is also an expression of the desire for peace. Small acts such as the folding of paper cranes can convey feelings about peace as well. Let us proceed unceasingly and with conviction to lay down the roots for a culture of peace in civil society.
Young people of the world; the novel coronavirus disease, global warming and the problem of nuclear weapons share one thing in common, and that is that they affect all of us who live on this earth. Are nuclear weapons necessary for the world of the future that you will live in? Let us clear a path to a world free of nuclear weapons and walk down it together.
I appeal to the leaders of countries around the world.
Please aim to break down the growing climate of distrust and instead build trust through dialogue. At this very time, please choose solidarity over division. At the NPT Review Conference which is scheduled for next year, I ask that you show a workable way toward nuclear disarmament which includes reductions in such weapons by the nuclear superpowers of Russia and the United States.
I now appeal to the government of Japan and members of the Diet.
As a country that has experienced the horrors of nuclear weapons, please sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and see to its ratification at the earliest possible date. In addition, please examine the plan to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Northeast Asia. And please adhere for eternity to the peaceful principles of the Japanese Constitution, which includes the determination not to wage war.
Furthermore, in addition to providing increased support for hibakusha who are suffering from atomic bombing aftereffects, I ask that relief measures be extended to those who experienced the atomic bombings but have yet to be officially recognized as bombing survivors.
Nine years have now passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. As a city that has experienced the threat of radiation, Nagasaki stands in support of the people of Fukushima as they strive toward recovery.
Along with everyone who reluctantly could not attend today's ceremony because of the novel coronavirus, we offer our heartfelt prayers for those who lost their lives to the atomic bomb and hereby declare that Nagasaki will continue to work tirelessly with Hiroshima, Okinawa, and all the people in places where great losses of life were experienced due to war and where peace is longed for, in order to bring about eternal peace and the elimination of nuclear weapons.
The following is the full text of Nobel Prize-winning British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro's message for Sunday's 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing in Nagasaki, where he was born in 1954.
This is the anniversary of a terrible event. But this milestone also marks seventy five years during which time there has been no repeat of what was inflicted on the people of Nagasaki that day. My mother, then a teenager in the city, was able to go on to enjoy a long peaceful life.
So this is an anniversary that brings triumph and hope, as well as horror and sadness. Let us not forget how fragile our civilization remains. And in our current, troubled times, let us not forget the importance of the international cooperation and understanding that has brought us safely through these years. Let us remember the huge dangers that continue to threaten us, and the supreme value of human life.