Hiroshima’s mayor has urged global leaders to back President Barack Obama’s call to abolish nuclear weapons as Japan marked the 64th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing.
At a solemn ceremony to commemorate the victims of the August 6 1945 attack, Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba said: ‘We refer to ourselves, the great global majority, as the Obamajority, and we call on the rest of the world to join forces with us to eliminate all nuclear weapons by 2020.’
The bombed-out dome of the building preserved as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial loomed in the background and hundreds of white doves were released into the air as he finished speaking.
About 50,000 people attended the ceremony, including officials and visitors from countries around the world, though the United States did not send an official representative.
In April, Mr Obama said that the United States, the only nation that has deployed atomic bombs in combat, had a ‘moral responsibility’ to act and declared his goal to rid the world of the weapons.
Hiroshima was instantly flattened in 1945 and an estimated 140,000 people were killed or died within months when the US B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped its deadly payload in the waning days of World War II.
Three days later, the US dropped a plutonium bomb on the city of Nagasaki, killing about 80,000 people.
A total of about 260,000 victims of the attack are officially recognised by the government, including those who have died of related injuries or sickness in the decades since.
Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso also spoke, saying that he hoped the world would follow Tokyo’s efforts to limit nuclear proliferation.
‘Japan will continue to uphold its three non-nuclear principles and lead the international community toward the abolishment of nuclear weapons and lasting peace,’ he said.
The three principles state that Japan will not make, own or harbour nuclear weapons.
Later in the day, Mr Aso signed an agreement with a group of atomic bomb survivors who had been seeking recognition and expanded health benefits from the government.
A similar ceremony will be held in Nagasaki on Sunday.