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1st Atomic Attack Marks 75th Anniv.    08/06 06:27

   

   HIROSHIMA, Japan (AP) -- Survivors of the world's first atomic bombing 
gathered in diminished numbers near an iconic, blasted dome Thursday to mark 
the attack's 75th anniversary, many of them urging the world, and their own 
government, to do more to ban nuclear weapons.

   An upsurge of coronavirus cases in Japan meant a much smaller than normal 
turnout, but the bombing survivors' message was more urgent than ever. As their 
numbers dwindle --- their average age is about 83 --- many nations have 
bolstered or maintained their nuclear arsenals, and their own government 
refuses to sign a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

   Amid cries of Japanese government hypocrisy, survivors, their relatives and 
officials marked the 8:15 a.m. blast anniversary with a minute of silence.

   The United States dropped the world's first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 
6, 1945, destroying the city and killing 140,000 people. The United States 
dropped a second bomb three days later on Nagasaki, killing another 70,000. 
Japan surrendered Aug. 15, ending World War II and its nearly half-century of 
aggression in Asia.

   But the decades since have seen the weapons stockpiling of the Cold War and 
a nuclear standoff among nations that continues to this day.

   Amid the solemn remembrances at Hiroshima's peace park, Prime Minister 
Shinzo Abe was confronted Thursday by six members of survivors' groups over the 
treaty.

   "Could you please respond to our request to sign the Nuclear Weapons 
Prohibition Treaty?" Tomoyuki Mimaki, a member of a major survivors' group, 
Hidankyo, implored Abe. "The milestone 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing 
is a chance" to change course.

   Abe insisted on Japan's policy not to sign the treaty, vaguely citing a 
"different approach," though he added that the government shares the goal of 
eliminating nuclear weapons.

   "Abe's actions don't seem to match his words," said Manabu Iwasa, 47, who 
came to the park to pray for his father, a bombing survivor who died at age 87 
in March. "Japan apparently sides with the United States, but it should make 
more efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. It's frustrating, but there is not 
much we individuals can do."

   Even though Tokyo renounces its own possession, production or hosting of 
nuclear weapons, Japan is a top U.S. ally, hosts 50,000 American troops and is 
protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella. This complicates the push to get Tokyo 
to sign the treaty adopted in 2017, especially as it steps up its military role 
amid North Korea's continuing pursuit of a stronger nuclear program.

   Abe, in his speech at the ceremony, said a nuclear-free world cannot be 
achieved overnight and it has to start with dialogue.

   "Japan's position is to serve as a bridge between different sides and 
patiently promote their dialogue and actions to achieve a world without nuclear 
weapons," Abe said.

   Earlier, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui urged world leaders to more seriously 
commit to nuclear disarmament, pointing out Japan's failures.

   "I ask the Japanese government to heed the appeal of the (bombing survivors) 
to sign, ratify and become a party to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear 
Weapons," Matsui said in his peace declaration. "As the only nation to suffer a 
nuclear attack, Japan must persuade the global public to unite with the spirit 
of Hiroshima."

   Thursday's peace ceremony at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was scaled 
down because of the coronavirus pandemic. The fewer than 1,000 attendees was 
one-tenth of those attending in past years.

   Some survivors and their relatives prayed at the park's cenotaph before the 
ceremony. The registry of the atomic bombing victims is stored at the cenotaph, 
whose inscription reads, "Let all the souls here rest in peace, for we shall 
not repeat the mistake."

   "The only way to totally eliminate nuclear risk is to totally eliminate 
nuclear weapons," U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a video 
message from New York for the occasion. Guterres' expected visit to Hiroshima 
had to be cancelled because of the coronavirus.

   "Seventy-five years is far too long not to have learned that the possession 
of nuclear weapons diminishes, rather than reinforces, security," he said. 
"Today, a world without nuclear weapons seems to be slipping further from our 
grasp."

   An aging group of survivors, known as hibakusha, feel a growing urgency to 
tell their stories, in hopes of reaching a younger generation.

   Many peace events, including their talks, leading up to the anniversary were 
cancelled because of the coronavirus, but some survivors have teamed with 
students or pacifist groups to speak at online events, sometimes connecting 
with international audiences.

   The bombing's survivors lamented the slow progress of nuclear disarmament 
and expressed anger over what they said was the Japanese government's 
reluctance to help and listen to those who suffered. They want world leaders, 
especially those from nuclear-weapons states, to visit Hiroshima and see the 
reality of the atomic bombing.

   Keiko Ogura, 84, who survived the atomic bombing at age 8, wants non-nuclear 
states to pressure Japan into signing the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty.

   "Many survivors are offended by the prime minister of this country because 
he does not sign the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty," said Ogura.

 
 
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