Thu, Aug 07, 2003 - Page 5 News List

US sees atom bomb as God, Hiroshima mayor says

AFP , HIROSHIMA, JAPAN

Doves fly over the cenotaph for victims of the atomic bomb and the A-bomb Dome during the 58th annual memorial service of the bombing at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

Hiroshima's mayor lashed out at the US' nuclear weapons policy yesterday during ceremonies marking the 58th anniversary of the city's atomic bombing, which caused the deaths of over 230,000 people.

Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba said the US worshipped nuclear weapons as "God" and blamed it for jeopardizing the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.

"The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the central international agreement guiding the elimination of nuclear weapons, is on the verge of collapse," Akiba said in an address to some 40,000 people.

"The chief cause is US nuclear policy that, by openly declaring the possibility of a pre-emptive nuclear first strike and calling for resumed research into mini-nukes and other so-called `useable nuclear weapons,' appears to worship nuclear weapons as God," he said.

The mayor also slammed as unjust the US-led war on Iraq, which he blamed for killing innocent civilians. "The weapons of mass destruction that served as the excuse for the war have yet to be found," he said.

Akiba strongly urged US President George W. Bush and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to personally visit Hiroshima and "confront the reality of nuclear war."

As the clock clicked onto 8:15am, the exact time the US dropped the bomb on Aug. 6, 1945, those at the ceremony at Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park bowed their heads for a minute's silence in memory of the victims of the attack.

During the 45-minute ceremony, officials added 5,050 names to the register of victims who died immediately or from the after-effects of radiation exposure in the bombing, bringing the total toll to 231,920, an official said.

The Hiroshima bombing was followed by the dropping of a second atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, which killed another estimated 74,000 people.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told the service that Japan would stick by its pacifist constitution and its non-nuclear principles because the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki "can never be repeated."

This year's ceremony came ahead of six-nation talks over North Korea's nuclear weapons development program, which Pyongyang agreed to last week.

Koizumi told reporters after the ceremony that North Korea's abduction of Japanese nationals would be a high priority at the talks.

"At the six-nation talks, obviously, nuclear weapons will be the focus, but for Japan, the abduction issue is just as important," he said.

"We will naturally have close cooperation with the United States and South Korea, but we must make efforts to have China and Russia understand our position as well," he said.

Last week, North Korea said it would accept six-way talks to include North and South Korea, Russia, Japan, China and the US to end the nuclear crisis that began in October last year.

Washington had accused the Stalinist state of reneging on a 1994 bilateral nuclear freeze accord by running a clandestine nuclear program based on enriched uranium.

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