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Japan Marks 65th Hiroshima Anniversary, As U.S. Attends For First Time

  • RFE/RL

Doves fly around the Atomic Bomb Dome at the Peace Memorial Park after their release during the memorial ceremony in Hiroshima today.

Doves fly around the Atomic Bomb Dome at the Peace Memorial Park after their release during the memorial ceremony in Hiroshima today.

Japan has marked the 65th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, with a ceremony attended for the first time by the United States.

The ceremony began with the tolling of a peace bell at 8:15 a.m., the time that a U.S. warplane, the "Enola Gay," dropped the bomb on August 6, 1945.

Thousands of survivors, as well as representatives from 75 nations, sat in silence at Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial. Groups of monks drummed, as residents burned incense and placed flowers at the foot of the monument. Survivors told reporters that much of their anger at the United States has faded. Now, they said, they just want peace.

Delegations from Britain and France were attending for the first time, joining dignitaries including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

"Our moment has come [to pursue nuclear disarmament]. Everywhere, we find new friends and allies," Ban said. "We see new leadership from the most powerful nations. We see new engagement in the UN Security Council. We see new energy from civil society."

A World Rid Of Nuclear Weapons

The city of Hiroshima was largely destroyed by the bomb. The attack killed 140,000 of Hiroshima’s 350,000 residents, including thousands who died long after the initial attack of related illnesses and injuries.

The U.S. ambassador to Japan, John Roos
Three days after Hiroshima, the United States dropped a second bomb on the city of Nagasaki, killing 80,000 more, forcing Japan to surrender less than a week later.

Since the end of World War II, Japan has stressed its place as the only nation ever to experience a nuclear attack to call for all nations to rid the world of nuclear weapons. At the ceremony, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan addressed the international community, saying, "With an eye on the future, our government will actively make specific suggestions for nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation and it is determined to contribute to the formation of an agreement in the international community."

The attendance at the ceremony of the U.S. ambassador to Japan, John Roos, reflects the close ties between the U.S. and Japanese governments. In a statement, Roos said the world must continue to push for nuclear disarmament, a key priority of U.S. President Barack Obama's administration.

'We Owe Their Victims'

Hiroshima is hoping Obama will become the first sitting president to visit the city, following his comments last year that he would be "honored" to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki at some point in his presidency.

On August 5, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, spoke in Vienna about the anniversary of the bombing.

"The names 'Hiroshima' and 'Nagasaki' have gone down in history as shorthand for nuclear devastation," Amano said. "We owe their victims this commitment -- that we will do everything in our power to make sure we never see another Hiroshima, another Nagasaki."

Japan has observed a self-imposed ban on the possession, production, and import of nuclear weapons since 1971. Recently, the Japanese media has reported that some politicians have called for a debate on whether Japan should have nuclear weapons.

This comes amid Japan’s fears of its nuclear armed neighbors, China and North Korea. But there is little support among the Japanese public.

written by Ashley Cleek, with agency reports
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