Nagasaki mayor calls on humanity to choose path to nuke-free world

by Takaki Tominaga

Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue on Sunday called on people around the globe to choose the path toward a world free of nuclear weapons, echoing a call made earlier by U.S. President Barack Obama, as the southwestern Japanese city commemorated the 64th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing.

''We, as human beings, now have two paths before us,'' Taue said in his Peace Declaration read out at a memorial ceremony at Nagasaki Peace Park. ''While one can lead us to 'a world without nuclear weapons,' the other will carry us toward annihilation.''

The declaration followed the one by Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, who urged the world three days earlier to join the city's effort to abolish nuclear weapons in response to Obama's appeal for a nuclear arms-free world.

In April, Obama said in Prague that the United States will seek a world without nuclear weapons, creating a wave of optimism among those who are petitioning for the abolishment of nuclear arms across the world.

''President Obama's speech was a watershed event, in that the United States, a superpower possessing nuclear weapons, finally took a step toward the elimination of nuclear armaments,'' Taue said, adding that people in Nagasaki are circulating petitions urging the U.S. leader to visit the city, which was devastated by the 1945 bombing.

As for Japan's role, Taue said the country must take a leading role in disseminating around the world the ''ideals of peace and renunciation of war'' as stipulated in its Constitution, as the only nation to have suffered nuclear bombings.

The mayor also urged the Japanese government to legislate its three non-nuclear principles of not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons on Japanese territory, and work on creating a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Northeast Asian region including North Korea.

A moment of silence was observed at 11:02 a.m., the time when a U.S. bomber dropped an atomic bomb on the city on Aug. 9, 1945, killing an estimated 74,000 people by the end of that year. The bombing occurred three days after the first one was dropped on Hiroshima.

A total of 3,304 people were additionally recognized in the past year as fatalities from the bombing of Nagasaki, bringing the total number of those who have died as a result of it to 149,266, according to city government officials.

Speaking at the ceremony, Ayako Okumura, a 72-year-old atomic bomb survivor, touched on Obama's speech, saying, ''I feel as if finally, after 64 years, the voices of atomic bomb survivors have reached the world. It means a great deal to me.''

Okumura, who was some 500 meters away from the hypocenter during the bombing, lost her eight family members, and is now involved in activities to tell her story to students on school trips and take them around memorial sites.

About 6,000 people took part in the ceremony, which was attended by diplomats from 29 nations, including Russia, the only nuclear power among them.

This year's anniversary comes on the heels of North Korea conducting a second nuclear test in May, in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Taue touched on Pyongyang's conduct, saying, ''As long as the world continues to rely on nuclear deterrence and nuclear weapons continue to exist, the possibility always exists that dangerous nations like North Korea and terrorists will emerge.''

He urged the international community to make North Korea destroy its nuclear arsenal and said the five major nuclear powers -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- must ''fulfill their responsibility to reduce nuclear arms.''

In support of Taue, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, president of the U.N. General Assembly, told the ceremony, ''The only certain way to assure that nuclear weapons will never be used again is to eliminate them outright.''

''I join the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and their many collaborators across the world in endorsing their call for achieving a nuclear-free world by 2020, a date that coincides with the 75th anniversary of the 1945 bombing,'' he said.

Also attending the ceremony, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso pledged to stick to Japan's three non-nuclear principles as he gave a speech similar to the one he delivered in Hiroshima three days earlier.

Aso also mentioned an agreement reached Thursday between the government and people suffering from atomic bombing-related illnesses under which the state will provide a blanket resolution to all 306 plaintiffs who have sought recognition as suffering from illnesses caused by the bombings.

The move came after the state lost 19 straight lawsuits filed across the country over the certification issue, putting an end to their six-year-long legal battle.

Following the memorial ceremony, five Nagasaki-based groups of atomic bomb survivors jointly submitted a petition to Aso, asking the government to enact measures to relieve all atomic bomb disease sufferers, including those who live abroad, while conducting health checkups of their children and grandchildren.

Earlier in the morning, a series of masses commemorating victims of the atomic bombing were held at Urakami Cathedral near the hypocenter as several hundreds, including the survivors, prayed for the victims' souls and world peace.

Yaeko Kataoka, a 64-year-old survivor who attended the mass from 6:00 a.m., said she is hopeful for a world without nuclear weapons but not so optimistic about achieving the goal in the near future.

''Reduction of nuclear arms is not sufficient enough because as long as some countries possess them, they could use them. It has to be a total elimination (of nuclear arms),'' Kataoka said after attending the mass.

''In that sense, I can't just be hunky-dory after hearing President Obama's speech.''

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, a total of 235,569 survivors were living throughout Japan as of March 31, down 8,123 from the year before, with their average age at 75.92, while some 4,500 hibakusha live overseas.

Japan surrendered Aug. 15, 1945, six days after the second atomic bomb turned Nagasaki into a silent ruin, bringing an end to World War II.

(Distributed by Kyodo News on August 9, 2009)

                              NAGASAKI PEACE DECLARATION

August 9, 2009

We, as human beings, now have two paths before us.

While one can lead us to “a world without nuclear weapons,” the other will carry us toward annihilation, bringing us to suffer once again the destruction experienced in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 64 years ago.

This April, in Prague, the Czech Republic, U.S. President Barack Obama clearly stated that the United States of America will seek a world without nuclear weapons. The President described concrete steps, such as the resumption of negotiations on a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with the Russians, pursuit of the U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which bans all nuclear explosions in the air, the sea, underground and in outer space, and seeking to conclude a treaty to ban the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium, both essential components of nuclear weapons. The President demonstrated strong determination by saying that “as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act,” which profoundly moved people in Nagasaki, a city that has suffered the horror of atomic bombing.

President Obama’s speech was a watershed event, in that the U.S., a superpower possessing nuclear weapons, finally took a step towards the elimination of nuclear armaments.

Nevertheless, this May, North Korea conducted its second nuclear test, in violation of the United Nations Security Council resolution. As long as the world continues to rely on nuclear deterrence and nuclear weapons continue to exist, the possibility always exists that dangerous nations, like North Korea, and terrorists will emerge. International society must absolutely make North Korea destroy its nuclear arsenal, and the five nuclear-weapon states must also reduce their nuclear weapons. In addition to the U.S. and Russia, the U.K., France and China must sincerely fulfill their responsibility to reduce nuclear arms under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

In a bid for thorough elimination of nuclear armaments, we urge the strongest efforts towards the Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC), which the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last year called on governments to negotiate actively. It is necessary to insist that not only India, Pakistan and North Korea, but also Israel, a nation widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, and Iran, a nation suspected of nuclear development, should participate in the convention in order to ensure that those nations totally eliminate their nuclear weapons.

Supporting the speech delivered in Prague, the Government of Japan, a nation that has experienced nuclear devastation, must play a leading role in international society. Moreover, the government must globally disseminate the ideals of peace and renunciation of war prescribed in the Japanese Constitution. The government must also embark on measures to establish a firm position on the Three Non-Nuclear Principles by enacting them into law, and to create a Northeast Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone, incorporating North Korea.

We strongly urge U.S. President Obama, Russia’s President Medvedev, U.K. Prime Minister Brown, France’s President Sarkozy and China’s President Hu Jintao, as well as India’s Prime Minister Singh, Pakistan’s President Zardari, North Korea’s General Secretary Kim Jong-il, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu and Iran’s President Ahmadinejad, and all the other world’s leaders, as follows.

Visit Nagasaki, a city that suffered nuclear destruction.

Visit the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and stand at the site of nuclear devastation, where the bones of numerous victims are still interred. On August 9, 1945 at 11:02 a.m., Nagasaki was devastated by intense radiation, heat rays of several thousand degrees Centigrade and horrific blast winds. Fierce fires destroyed Nagasaki, turning the city into a silent ruin. While 74,000 dead victims screamed silently, 75,000 injured people moaned. Everybody who visits is sure to be overwhelmed with the anguish of those who died in this atomic bombing.

You will see those who managed to survive the atomic bombing. You will hear the voices of elderly victims, who try to tell the story of their experiences even as they continue to suffer from the after-effects. You will be stimulated by the passion of young people, who carry out their activities in the belief that although they did not share the experience of the atomic bombing, they can share the awareness that strives for the elimination of nuclear armaments.

Now, in Nagasaki, the General Conference of Mayors for Peace is being held. In February next year, the Nagasaki Global Citizens’ Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons will be held, attended by NGOs from both within Japan and overseas. For the next year’s NPT Review Conference, citizens, NGOs and cities strive to strengthen their unity.

People in Nagasaki are circulating petitions calling for President Obama to visit Nagasaki, a city that experienced atomic bombing. Each of us plays a vital role in creating history. We must never leave this responsibility only to leaders or governments.

We ask the people of the world, now, in each place, in each of your lives, to initiate efforts to declare support for the Prague speech and take steps together towards “a world without nuclear weapons.”

Some 64 years have passed since the atomic bombing. The remaining survivors are growing old. We call once again for the Japanese government, from the perspective of the provision of relief for atomic bomb survivors, to hasten to offer them support that corresponds with their reality.

We pray from our hearts for the repose of the souls of those who died in the atomic bombing, and pledge our commitment to the elimination of nuclear armaments.

Tomihisa Taue
The City of Nagasaki