Urging people to remember the nuclear bombing that turned his city into a "hell on earth," Nagasaki's mayor marked the attack's 58th anniversary yesterday by warning that the world's oldest -- and newest -- nuclear powers had dealt dangerous setbacks to arms-control efforts.
"International agreements supporting nuclear disarmament, nuclear nonproliferation and the prohibition of all nuclear weapons testing now appear to be on the verge of collapse," Itcho Ito said at a ceremony attended by thousands of people -- including survivors of the Aug. 9, 1945 blast.
Ito referred to last year's controversial US review of its own nuclear policy, which included a proposal to develop a new kind of nuclear bomb to destroy underground targets.
He also blamed India and Pakistan, which held nuclear tests in 1998, and North Korea, which allegedly told US officials in April that it had nuclear weapons.
The disclosure "has heightened international tensions," he said.
Ito's plea for a world free of nuclear weapons was less critical of Japan's main ally than his Hiroshima counterpart's speech earlier this week.
That city's mayor accused Washington of worshipping nuclear weapons "as God."
Participants in yesterday's ceremony observed a minute of silence while a bell tolled at 11:02am -- the moment the B-29 bomber Bock's Car dropped the bomb dubbed "Fat Man" on Nagasaki. About 70,000 people were killed in the explosion.
"In an instant, the resulting heat, blast and radiation descended upon Nagasaki and transformed the city into a hell on earth," Ito said.
Thousands of people suffering from related long-term illnesses keep the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan's public eye.
Nagasaki this year added 2,692 people to a list of those who have died from aftereffects, bringing the city's count of the total number of bomb victims to 131,885.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi yesterday vowed to uphold Japan's long-standing policy stating that it won't produce, possess or allow nuclear weapons on its soil.
"As the world's only nation to have experienced a nuclear attack, we are determined that the tragedies at Hiroshima and Nagasaki will never be repeated," Koizumi said at the ceremony.
World War II ended when Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, 1945, six days after the Nagasaki bombing.
The Nagasaki and Hiroshima ceremonies are among memorials held every year for Japanese killed in the war.
Meanwhile, Japan continues to face many who remember very different aspects of its militaristic past.
Courts hear dozens of cases filed against Japan's government by Chinese, Koreans and other Asians who were conscripted as laborers, were victims of Japanese germ warfare or were forced to work as prostitutes in front-line brothels.
The government has denied any liability, saying postwar treaties settled the compensation issue.