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Mayor of Hiroshima Criticizes US for Unilaterally Pursuing Its Own Interests

7 August 2002

The mayor of Hiroshima criticized the United States for unilaterally pursuing its own interests and urged a worldwide ban on weapons of mass destruction, as thousands gathered Tuesday to mark the 57th anniversary of the world's first atomic bomb attack.

In the annual ceremony at Peace Memorial Park, Tadatoshi Akiba suggested that Washington's policies in the post-Sept. 11 world were misguided.

"The United States government has no right to force Pax Americana on the rest of us, or to unilaterally determine the fate of the world," Akiba said. He also urged President Bush to visit Hiroshima to see "with his own eyes what nuclear weapons hold in store."

At 8:15 a.m. the minute on Aug. 6, 1945, when the bomb exploded after being dropped from a U.S. B-29 warplane a bell tolled and more than 45,000 survivors, residents and dignitaries from around the world bowed their heads for 60 seconds of silence to remember the victims.

The bomb killed about 140,000 people and sickened hundreds of thousands more in Hiroshima, 430 miles southwest of Tokyo. Three days later, a U.S. bomber dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, killing 70,000 people. Japan surrendered Aug. 15, 1945, ending World War II.

In his remarks, Akiba criticized what he called the prevailing international philosophy of '"I'll show you' and 'I'm stronger than you are,'" particularly in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

Akiba called on countries to scrap weapons of mass destruction, even as nuclear-armed India and Pakistan remained on war footing in the hotly contested region of Kashmir.

"The probability that nuclear weapons will be used again and the danger of nuclear war are increasing," Akiba said. "Since the terrorist attack against the American people on Sept. 11 last year, the danger has become more striking."

This year's event comes less than three months after remarks by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's top aide raised questions about Japan's resolve to maintain its anti-nuclear policy. In late May, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said the country is not legally prohibited from having nuclear arms but later accused the media of taking his comments out of context.

Koizumi repeatedly has tried to quell the controversy, and again stressed Tokyo's no-nuclear policy Tuesday, at his second appearance at the annual Hiroshima event.

"As the only country in history to have experienced atomic bombings, I would like to underline Japan's unwavering commitment to its war-renouncing constitution and its three principles: Non-possession, non-production and non-entry of nuclear weapons," Koizumi said.

Ceremonies are to be held Thursday and Friday to mark the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, on the southernmost main island of Kyushu.

During Tuesday's ceremony, 1,500 white doves were released into the sky. Five hundred children sang a song of peace to an orchestral accompaniment.

The memorial includes the names of more than 200,000 people who were in the city on the day of the bombing. This year, 4,977 names of people who have succumbed to long-term illnesses, such as cancer, since the previous year's anniversary were added to the cenotaph, putting the number of victims at 226,870, Hiroshima city spokeswoman Yukiko Ota said.

Among those paying respects Tuesday was Junichiro Nagai, 71, who was a middle school student on the outskirts of Hiroshima when the city was incinerated.

For months afterward, he suffered from radiation sickness, vomiting and diarrhea fits. And to this day he is haunted by memories of a city flattened in a single instant and images of zombie-like victims with melted skin.

"My body's fine now," Nagai said after praying at the memorial. "It's what I saw that day that was most disturbing."

Published by the Associated Press (Hiroshima, Japan) © 2002 The Associated Press

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