The city of Nagasaki marked the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing Sunday with calls to abolish nuclear weapons and halt the Japanese government's push to loosen restrictions on what its military can do.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday renewed his commitment to a nuclear weapons free Japan, following criticism for not making the same pledge on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing last week.
“As the only nation in the world to have suffered a wartime nuclear attack, I have renewed my resolve to play a leading role in pursuing a world without nuclear weapons and maintain the three non-nuclear principles,” Abe said during a ceremony at Nagasaki Peace Park.
The “three non-nuclear principles” are Japan's long-standing policy of not possessing or producing nuclear arms and not letting others bring them into the country.
Representatives from 75 countries, including U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, were among those gathered at the ceremony, where a representative of Nagasaki bomb survivors told the crowd that security legislation introduced by Abe's government goes against the wishes of the survivors and "will lead to war."
"We cannot accept this," 86-year-old Sumiteru Taniguchi said, after describing in graphic detail his traumatic injuries and how others died in the Aug. 9, 1945, attack on Nagasaki.
As a bell tolled, they observed a minute of silence at 11:02 a.m., the time when the a U.S. B-29 plane dropped the atomic bomb, killing more than 70,000 people and helping to prompt Japan's World War II surrender. The first atomic bomb in Hiroshima three days earlier killed an estimated 140,000.
Japan's defense minister triggered a new disagreement over controversial security legislation on Wednesday when he said the bills under consideration by parliament would not rule out the military transporting the nuclear weapons of foreign forces.
Abe's cabinet adopted a resolution last year reinterpreting the pacifist constitution, drafted by Americans after World War II, to let Japan exercise collective self-defense, or defend an ally under attack.
The unpopular bills have already passed the lower house, and Abe's ruling bloc has a majority in the upper house as well. But surveys show a majority of voters are opposed to what would be a significant shift in Japan's defense policy.
Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue, addressing the same ceremony, noted the “widespread unease” about the legislation, which has passed the lower house of parliament and is now before the upper house.
“I urge the government of Japan to listen to these voices of unease and concern,” Taue said.
A message from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon echoed calls by Taue and others to abolish nuclear weapons.
“I wholeheartedly join you in sounding a global rallying cry: No more Nagasakis. No more Hiroshimas,” Ban said in a message read by Kim Won-soo, the acting U.N. high representative for disarmament affairs.