Bells rang in Hiroshima on Saturday as the city marked the 77th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing and officials, including the United Nations secretary-general, warned of a new arms race following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, and shortly thereafter, Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted at the possibility of a nuclear strike. The conflict has also raised concerns about the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres joined thousands of people who gathered at Peace Park in the center of the city to mark the anniversary of the bombing, which killed 140,000 people by the end of 1945. This is only the second time that the UN Secretary General has taken part in the annual ceremony.

“Nuclear weapons are stupid. They do not guarantee any security, only death and destruction,” said Guterres.

“Three-quarters of a century later, we have to ask what we learned from the mushroom cloud that rose over this city in 1945.”

Guterres avoided directly mentioning Russia, which calls its invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation.”
Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui, whose city did not invite the Russian ambassador to the ceremony this year, spoke more sharply and critically about Moscow’s military actions in Ukraine.

“By invading Ukraine, a Russian leader elected to protect the lives and property of his people is using them as instruments of war, stealing the lives and livelihoods of civilians in another country,” Matsui said.

“There is a growing perception around the world that peace depends on nuclear deterrence,” Matsui added.

“These mistakes betray humanity’s determination, born of the experience of war, to achieve a peaceful world free of nuclear weapons. To accept the status quo and abandon the ideal of peace maintained without military force is to threaten the very survival of the human race.”

At 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945, a U.S. military B-29 Enola Gay dropped a bomb called “Little Boy” and destroyed the city of 350,000 people. Thousands of others died later from radiation-related injuries and illnesses. .

On Saturday, as cicadas screeched in the heavy summer air, the Bell of Peace was rung and a crowd, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who hails from Hiroshima, observed a moment of silence as the bomb went off.

“At the beginning of this year, the five nuclear-weapon states issued a joint statement: ‘Nuclear war cannot be won and can never be fought,'” added Matsui.

“Why don’t they try to fulfill their promises? Why are some even hinting at the use of nuclear weapons?”
On Thursday, Russian Ambassador to Japan Mikhail Galuzin laid flowers at a memorial stone in the park and told reporters that his country would never use nuclear weapons.

Kishida, who chose Hiroshima as the venue for next year’s G7 summit, called on the world to abandon nuclear weapons.

Earlier this week, he became the first Japanese leader to attend the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference.

“We will continue to move towards the ideal of nuclear disarmament, even given the current tough security environment,” he said.

The Hiroshima disaster was followed by the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, killing more than 75,000 people. Japan surrendered six days later, ending World War II.

In Hiroshima, Kishida also told Guterres that he strongly condemned China’s recent ballistic missile launches as “a serious issue concerning the security of Japan and the security of the Japanese people,” according to a Foreign Ministry press release on Saturday.

Kishida repeated phrases he used a day earlier during a meeting with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose visit to Taiwan this week prompted an enraged China to stage an unprecedented military exercise in which five missiles landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

Kishida said he would work closely with Guterres over China’s actions, which “seriously affect the peace and stability of the international community,” according to the release.

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