Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called yesterday for an end to nuclear weapons as he toured a memorial to the horror of the world’s first atomic bombing.
Rudd started a visit to Japan, aimed at easing doubts about his commitment to the two countries’ alliance, with a tour of Hiroshima, where a partially destroyed dome lies as a memorial to the nuclear attack.
The first Australian prime minister to visit the memorial was joined by his wife, Therese Rein, as they laid a wreath and toured a museum documenting the Aug. 6, 1945, attack.
He wrote in the museum guest book: “Let the world resolve afresh from the ashes of this city — to work together for the common mission of peace for this Asia-Pacific century, and for a world where one day nuclear weapons are no more.”
He echoed his remarks in public remarks, saying: “Hiroshima should cause the world community to resolve afresh that all humankind must exert their every effort for peace in this 21st century.”
The US dropped an atomic bomb on the city in the early morning, killing about 140,000 people either immediately or in the months that followed from radiation injuries or horrific burns.
Three days later, an even more powerful nuclear bomb flattened Nagasaki, killing another 70,000 people. Japan surrendered six days afterwards, ending World War II.
Rudd has taken a harder line on nuclear issues since taking office last year, reversing a decision to sell uranium to India because New Delhi has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
His commitment on nuclear issues will likely be welcomed in Japan, where the election of Rudd’s Labor Party was received with some unease last year.
Japanese officials were privately irate when Rudd, a Sinophile, visited China rather than Japan on his first major overseas visit that also took him to the US and Europe.
Rudd has also ramped up pressure on Japan over whaling, sending a customs vessel to monitor Tokyo’s controversial annual hunt in the Antarctic Ocean.
Japan, which says that whaling is part of its culture, kills hundreds of the giant mammals each year in defiance of strong protests by Australia and New Zealand.