Nagasaki marked the 78th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of the city on Wednesday, August 9, 2023 in a scaled-down ceremony.
The ceremony, which took place inside a vast, modern room at the Nagasaki Dejima Messe conference center, was the first since 1963 to be held indoors rather than at the southwestern Japan city’s Peace Park close to the hypocenter where the bomb detonated. The 1963 ceremony was moved indoors due to rain.
The decision to change the venue came amid concern over the path of Typhoon Khanun.
The ceremony was also the first Nagasaki ceremony not to be attended by a Japanese leader since 1999 as the local government decided to hold the event among organizers only and cancel in-person attendance, including by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and international guests.
Around 40 people, primarily from the city government, were present.
The event has never been canceled since the city government began holding it in 1956.
In his peace declaration on Wednesday, Nagasaki Mayor, Shiro Suzuki averred “Now is the time to show courage and make the decision to break free from dependence on nuclear deterrence.”
“As long as states are dependent on nuclear deterrence, we cannot realize a world without nuclear weapons,” he added.
Suzuki noted that Russia is not the only one representing the risk of nuclear deterrence, saying that Russia’s nuclear threat has encouraged other nuclear states to accelerate their dependence on nuclear weapons or enhance capabilities, further increasing the risk of nuclear war.
Participants at the ceremony observed a moment of silence with the sound of a peace bell at 11:02 a.m.
Also, Suzuki called on the Japanese government to “show resolve” toward eliminating nuclear weapons by signing and ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as quickly as possible.
Japan has not joined the treaty on prohibiting nuclear weapons. Instead, it continues to support the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, known as NPT, which is intended to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and achieve disarmament.
Moreover, Suzuki emphasized that knowing the reality of the atomic bombings is the starting point for achieving a world without nuclear weapons. The Mayor, whose parents were hibakusha; a term used for survivors of the Nagasaki attack, said that survivors’ testimonies are a true deterrence against nuclear weapons use.
The United States dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, destroying the city and killing 140,000 people. The nuclear attack on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, came three days later. It is believed to have killed around 70,000 more people.
Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945, ending World War II .
Nationally, government records current to the end of March showed there were 113,649 officially recognized survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks, down 5,346 from the previous year, with their average age standing at over 85.
Risk Of Nuclear Catastrophe At Its Highest Level
In his statement read aloud at the ceremony, U.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, noted that nuclear weapons are “being used as tools of coercion.”
“The risk of nuclear catastrophe is now at its highest level since the Cold War,” he added.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who did not attend the ceremony in person, admitted in avideo message that the path toward a nuclear-free world has become tougher due to rising tensions and conflicts.
Also, deeper division in the international community is affecting the disarmament movement.
Kishida added that as the only country to have suffered a nuclear attack, Japan will uphold its three non-nuclear principles of not possessing, producing or permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons as part of the nation’s “forever unchanging” mission to achieve disarmament.