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68th Anniversary of Hiroshima

From Voice of America, August 6, 2013:

Japan observed a minute of silence Tuesday to mark the 68th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima.

Survivors and relatives of victims were among 50,000 people gathered at a peace park in Hiroshima for a somber ceremony.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the crowd Japan has a unique responsibility to push for the end of nuclear weapons.

“We Japanese are history’s sole victims of the nuclear attack of the nuclear attack and we have the certain responsibility to bring about a world without nuclear weapons,” Abe said. “And it is our duty to continue to remind the world of [nuclear weapons’] inhumanity.”

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui made a similar pledge, calling nuclear bombs the “ultimate inhumane weapon and an absolute evil.”

About 140,000 were killed in the days following the August 6, 1945 U.S. bombing of Hiroshima. Three days later, U.S. planes dropped a nuclear bomb on Nagasaki, killing about 70,000 more.

The U.S. and its allies have argued the bombings were necessary and helped save lives by convincing Japan to surrender, bringing a quicker end to World War II.

The sensitive anniversary comes as Japan wrestles over a debate about the role of nuclear energy, following the country’s 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster.

Almost all of Japan’s nuclear power plants remain shut down following the meltdowns at Fukushima, which spread radiation over a large area and forced thousands to flee.

Prime Minister Abe and his party want to restart the plants following safety inspections, but the plan has proved controversial for many in the energy-dependent nation.

Since the accident, there have been repeated safety concerns at the Fukushima power plant, where operators are struggling to contain radiation-contaminated water.


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Hiroshima Marks Anniversary of Atomic Bombing

Story from Inquirer News.com, August 6, 2012:

Tens of thousands of people will mark the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Monday, as a rising tide of anti-nuclear sentiment swells in post-Fukushima Japan.

Ageing survivors, victims’ relatives, government officials and foreign delegates will attend the annual ceremony at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park commemorating the US bombing of the Japanese city nearly seven decades ago.

American B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on August 6, 1945, turning the western city into a nuclear inferno and killing an estimated 140,000 in the final chapter of World War II.

At 8:15 am (2315 GMT) the toll of a temple bell will set off a moment of silence, marking the time the bomb was dropped.

Anti-nuclear rallies triggered by last year’s atomic crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant are expected alongside the anniversary events in Hiroshima, a long-time focal point for the global movement against nuclear weapons.

Many atomic bomb survivors oppose both military and civil use of nuclear power, pointing to the tens of thousands who were killed instantly in the Hiroshima blast and the many more who later died from radiation sickness and cancers tied to the attack.

Usually sedate Japan has seen a string of anti-nuclear protests since Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in June ordered the restart of two reactors.

Noda defended the move citing looming power shortages after Japan switched off its 50 nuclear reactors — which once provided the resource-poor country with a third of its energy — in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

Weekly demonstrations outside the prime minister’s official residence have drawn thousands while a rally in west Tokyo last month saw a crowd that organisers claimed swelled to 170,000.

Noda is scheduled to attend Monday’s ceremony along with a host of foreign diplomats, including US Ambassador to Japan John Roos, who became the first official US envoy to attend the ceremony two years ago.

“The United States looks forward to continuing to work with Japan to advance President (Barack) Obama’s goal of realizing a world without nuclear weapons,” the embassy said in a statement.

Among other foreign guests is Clifton Truman Daniel, 55, grandson of former US president Harry Truman, who authorised the bombing of Hiroshima and the port city of Nagasaki three days later.

He is the first Truman relative to attend the anniversary event in Japan.

The Hiroshima bombing killed an estimated 140,000 either instantly or from burns and radiation sickness soon after the blast. A second atomic bombing three days later in the city of Nagasaki killed more than 70,000.

The commemoration ceremony comes nearly a year and a half after a quake-sparked tsunami, which left some 19,000 dead or missing, knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima plant, causing meltdowns that spread radiation over a large area and forced thousands to evacuate.

Some have moved back to nearby communities, but many more have not and there are fears it could be decades before the area was deemed safe to live in.

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Remembering Hiroshima

For the first time since the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, a U.S. delegation attended commemorative ceremonies in Japan.   The American delegations presence there, however, was not without controversy. Here’s one story from Eric Talmadge of the AP: (also see the fox news story link:  http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/08/04/tibbets-son-disapproves-plan-send-delegation-hiroshima-ceremony)

The site of the world’s first atomic attack swarmed with tens of thousands of people Thursday as Hiroshima prepared for a memorial that will for the first time have representatives from the United States and other major nuclear powers.

Washington’s decision to attend the 65th anniversary event on Friday has been welcomed by Japan’s government, but has generated complex feelings among some Japanese who see the bombing as unjustified and want the United States to apologize.

“Americans think that the bombing was reasonable because it speeded up the end of the war. They try to see it in a positive way,” Naomi Sawa, a 69-year-old former teacher, said after paying her respects to the dead. “But we were devastated.”

About 140,000 people were killed or died within months when an American B-29 bombed Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. Three days later, about 80,000 people died after the United States attacked Nagasaki.

Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, ending World War II.

Concerns that attending the ceremony — an emotional event beginning with the offering of water to the dead and the ringing of a bell to soothe their souls — would reopen old wounds had until this year kept the U.S. away.

Former President Jimmy Carter visited Hiroshima’s Peace Museum in 1984, after he was out of office. The highest-ranking American to visit while in office is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who went in 2008.

Neither went for the annual memorial.

But to gain wider attendance, Hiroshima has taken great pains to ensure that the memorial will be a forward-looking event, a key to getting Washington to participate. Japanese officials said it is important to use the anniversary as a chance to push nuclear disarmament, not revisit history.

That message appears to have resonated.

Friday’s memorial is to be the largest gathering yet, with representatives from 75 countries and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. John Roos, the ambassador to Japan, will represent the U.S.

French and British dignitaries were to join for the first time as well.

The presence of the U.S. has been hailed by officials in Hiroshima and Tokyo as a breakthrough and a sign of President Barack Obama’s desire to push ahead with his ambitious goal of creating a world without nuclear weapons.

“We believe the attendance of the nuclear powers will bolster a global desire to abolish nuclear weapons,” Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba said in a statement.

Ban, who visited Nagasaki on Thursday before arriving in Hiroshima, said this year’s memorial will send a strong signal to the world that nuclear weapons must be destroyed.

“The only way to ensure that such weapons will never again be used is to eliminate them all,” he said. “There must be no place in our world for such indiscriminate weapons.”

Hiroshima has invited Obama to visit the city, and he has expressed interest in doing so at some point while he is in office.

But such a visit would be highly controversial.

At Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, some visitors expressed concerns that Japan’s view of the bombing — seen by many as excessive use of deadly force — still remains at odds with America’s.

Katsuko Nishibe, a 61-year-old peace activist, said she welcomed the decision to send Roos, but added that she thought it was dangerous to think that the bombing of Hiroshima was justified.

“I don’t think it was necessary,” she said. “We have a very different interpretation of history. But we can disagree about history and still agree that peace is what is important. That is the real lesson of Hiroshima.”

Jerry Wohlgemuth, a 23-year-old college student from Great Meadows, New Jersey, said he supported the decision to send a representative from the U.S.

“It shows how much progress we’ve made as a country,” he said.

But he said he thought the bombing was unavoidable.

“Just imagining sending Marines to Japan’s mainland and having to take Tokyo — millions would have died. It might not have even been possible. World War II was total war.”

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