Hiroshima marked the 77th anniversary of its atomic bombing by the United States on Saturday, amid heightened concerns in Japan and elsewhere over Russia's repeated suggestions that it may resort to nuclear weapons in its war against Ukraine.
Mayor Kazumi Matsui is expected to caution in the Peace Declaration at a memorial ceremony in the western city that while civilian lives are being lost in the Russian aggression, dependence on nuclear deterrence is gaining momentum in the world.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres will become the first U.N. chief to attend the annual ceremony at the Peace Memorial Park near ground zero since his predecessor Ban Ki Moon did so in 2010.
A moment of silence will be observed at 8:15 a.m., the exact moment a uranium bomb dropped from a U.S. bomber detonated over the city on Aug. 6, 1945, killing an estimated 140,000 people by the end of the year.
The ceremony is expected to be attended by representatives from a record 101 nations and the European Union, while Russia and Belarus, which is aiding Moscow in the Ukraine war, were not invited.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who represents a constituency in Hiroshima, will also give remarks at the ceremony for the first time since being elected premier last October.
The mayor will call on the Japanese government to act as a bridge between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states, ratify a U.N. treaty banning nuclear weapons and participate in the next conference of parties to the treaty after Japan skipped the first one held in June, even as an observer.
This year's ceremony will be on a larger scale than last year's, although still reduced in terms of the number of attendees, as restrictions to stem the spread of COVID-19 have been eased nationwide.
Three days after the bomb nicknamed "Little Boy" decimated Hiroshima, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. It was then followed by Japan's surrender to the Allied forces six days later, marking the end of World War II.
The combined number of officially recognized survivors of the two nuclear attacks, known as hibakusha, stood at 118,935 as of March, down 8,820 from a year earlier, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said. Their average age was 84.53.
Hiroshima will host a summit meeting of the Group of Seven industrialized nations next May, and Japan aims to send out a message of peace following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.