Amid growing concerns around the world about the threat of nuclear war, the Japanese city of Hiroshima commemorated the victims of the atomic bombing 77 years ago.
"Crises with serious nuclear overtones are spreading rapidly - from the Middle East to the Korean Peninsula to the Russian invasion of Ukraine," UN Secretary-General António Guterres said at a commemoration ceremony at Hiroshima Peace Park on Saturday. "Humanity is playing with a loaded gun". It was "completely unacceptable for states that possess nuclear weapons to admit the possibility of nuclear war," Guterres said, adding: "Take the nuclear option off the table - forever. It's time to spread peace."
"Make All Nuclear Buttons Meaningless"
It was the first time in 12 years that a UN chief attended Hiroshima's annual commemoration. Russia and its ally Belarus were not invited. At 8:15 a.m. (local time), the time when the US bomber Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb called "Little Boy" over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the participants observed a minute's silence. "We must immediately render all nuclear buttons meaningless," said Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui. In his speech to representatives of 99 nations and the European Union, he specifically mentioned Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, to which innocent civilians fell victim.
Nuclear disarmament had stalled even before Russia's invasion. Now reducing the nearly 13,000 nuclear weapons worldwide is becoming even more difficult. "We must always bear in mind the horrors of Hiroshima and recognize that the only solution to the nuclear threat is to have no nuclear weapons at all," said Guterres, who received applause for his Hiroshima speech.
Russia had recently confirmed that it did not want to start a nuclear war. "We assume that there can be no winners in a nuclear war and that it must never be started," President Vladimir Putin wrote in a welcoming address to the conference on the Non-Proliferation Treaty in New York, which runs until August 26.
Peace depends on nuclear deterrence
"Around the world, the notion that peace depends on nuclear deterrence is gaining traction," Hiroshima Mayor Matsui lamented in his memorial speech. Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said his country will work to reconcile the "reality" of a deteriorating security environment with the "ideal" of a world without nuclear weapons. Kishida is from Hiroshima herself.
Japan is hosting the summit of the seven leading democratic economic powers (G7) in the city of millions next year. Tens of thousands of residents died immediately on August 6, 1945, when the United States dropped the atomic bomb; an estimated 140,000 people died by the end of 1945. Three days after Hiroshima, the US dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Shortly thereafter, the Japanese Empire capitulated. Today the United States is Japan's protector. Hiroshima became a symbol of war - and peace.