TOKYO • Nagasaki must be the last place to suffer an atomic bombing, its mayor said yesterday, marking 72 years since the devastating American nuclear attack on the Japanese city with a passionate call for denuclearisation.
The anniversary comes as tensions over North Korea's rogue weapons programme and increasingly bellicose rhetoric from United States President Donald Trump rattle the region and put the nuclear threat in the spotlight.
"A strong sense of anxiety is spreading across the globe that in the not-too-distant future, these weapons could actually be used again," said Mayor Tomihisa Taue at a ceremony at Nagasaki Peace Park. "Nagasaki must be the last place to suffer an atomic bombing."
A bell tolled as thousands of people, including ageing survivors and relatives of victims, observed a minute's silence at 11.02am local time, the exact moment that the blast struck on Aug 9, 1945, in the closing days of World War II.
Japan is the only country to have suffered atomic attacks.
The US dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug 6, 1945, killing around 140,000 people. The toll includes those who survived the explosion itself but died soon after from severe radiation exposure.
Three days later, the US dropped a plutonium bomb on Nagasaki, killing some 74,000 people.
Japan announced its surrender in World War II on Aug 15, 1945.
Yesterday's ceremony took place amid growing concerns over North Korea. The security fears have recently been cited by nuclear powers Britain, France and the US to oppose a United Nations treaty banning atomic weapons. It was a position supported by Japan.
Mayor Taue lambasted Tokyo over its stance on the treaty as "incomprehensible to those of us living in the cities that suffered atomic bombings". Japanese officials routinely argue that they abhor nuclear weapons, but the nation's defence is set under the US nuclear umbrella.
Many in Japan feel the attacks amounted to war crimes because they targeted civilians and due to the unprecedented destructive nature of the weapons. But many Americans believe the bombings hastened the end of a bloody conflict and ultimately saved lives, thus justifying the attacks.