Nagasaki pushes Japan gov't to work for nuke ban amid rising danger
NAGASAKI (UPDATE) - The mayor of Nagasaki on Sunday pushed the Japanese government to take more action toward realizing a world free of nuclear weapons, amid a global retreat of leadership on the issue, at a memorial ceremony on the 75th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of the city.
Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue appealed specifically to the government to sign and ratify a U.N. treaty banning nuclear arsenals, which was adopted in 2017 but is still not in 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 touching on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons when he addressed the crowd, including survivors and families of the victims, casting light on the conflicted position the country is in.
After a moment of silence was observed at 11:02, the exact time of the bombing on Aug. 9, 1945, Taue said recent developments by nuclear-weapon states "go back on the promise" of disarmament, and urged the international community to heed calls by atomic-bomb survivors and make the treaty come 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 for the first time, saying, "Let us not forget how fragile our civilization remains" and emphasized the "supreme value of human life."
While the momentum for international cooperation is weakening, the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty between the United States and Russia is set to expire in six months, with many worried about the increasing 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," Guterres said in a message read at the service, which only allowed about 500 guests, roughly one-10th the number in recent years, due to the coronavirus pandemic. But there were representatives from about 70 countries.
Meanwhile, Abe's speech was almost a carbon copy of what he said three days ago during 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 nuclear-free world.
But sitting under the U.S. nuclear umbrella under a decades-old bilateral security accord, Japan has refused to participate in the U.N. treaty along with the world's nuclear-weapon states.
Ireland, Nigeria and Niue completed ratification procedures for the treaty on Thursday, the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
Before the pact was adopted, nuclear arms were the only weapons of mass destruction not subject to a comprehensive ban. The treaty now needs seven more ratifications to reach the threshold of 50 required for its entry into force.
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.
The combined number of hibakusha, or survivors of the two 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.