Japanese PM Abe rapped as Nagasaki marks 70th anniversary of A-bomb
Japan on Sunday marked the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki that claimed more than 74,000 lives, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came under fire for his attempts to expand the military’s role.
Bells tolled and tens of thousands of people, including aging survivors and the relatives of victims, observed a minute’s silence at 11:02 a.m. (0202 GMT), the moment the bomb from a U.S. plane devastated the port city on Aug. 9, 1945.
Abe laid a wreath at the ceremony, attended by representatives from 75 countries including U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy.
“As the only country attacked with an atomic bomb in war, I am renewing our determination to lead the global effort for nuclear disarmament, to create a world without such weapons,” Abe said in his speech.
He promised that Japan would continue to abide by its long-held principles: not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons on Japanese territory.
Abe was criticized
failing to mention the three principles at a ceremony days earlier in Hiroshima, alarming atomic bomb survivors — particularly when the nationalist leader is trying to push through legislation to extend the military’s role.
Nagasaki survivor Sumiteru Taniguchi, 86, lashed out at Abe’s government for trying to revise the pacifist constitution, accusing it of returning Japan to the situation before the end of World War II.
“The security bills which the government is trying to push through would jeopardize our long-time movement for nuclear abolition and hopes of hibakusha (atom-bomb survivors),” he said in a thin voice. “I cannot tolerate the bills.”
Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue also criticized the government as Abe listened.
“Worries and anxieties are now spreading among us that this pledge made 70 years ago and the principle for peace in the Japanese constitution may be now undermined,” he said to loud applause.
Abe later met reporters and defended the security legislation as necessary for peace.
“It will send a stronger message to the world that the Japan-U.S. alliance functions perfectly, which would make it less likely that Japan would come under attack,” he said.
Abe has faced criticism and opposition for his attempts to expand the role of his pacifist country’s so-called Self-Defense Forces.
The changes would allow them to engage in combat — in defense of an ally which comes under attack — for the first time since the war.
A constitution imposed by a post-war U.S. occupation force prevented the military from engaging in combat except in the nation’s own self-defense.
In the now bustling port city of Nagasaki, about 74,000 people died in the initial blast near a major arms factory from a plutonium bomb nicknamed “Fat Man.” Thousands of others perished months or years later from radiation sickness.
The attack on Nagasaki came three days after the U.S. B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped a bomb, dubbed “Little Boy,” on Hiroshima in history’s first atomic bombing.
A wall of heat up to 4,000 degrees Celsius — hot enough to melt steel — incinerated that city.
The twin bombings dealt the final blows to imperial Japan, which surrendered on Aug. 15, 1945 to bring an end to World War II.
While some historians say they prevented many more casualties which would have resulted from a land invasion, critics counter that the attacks were not necessary to end the war, arguing that Japan was already heading for imminent defeat.
At memorial ceremonies
in Hiroshima on Thursday, Abe said Japan would submit a fresh resolution calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons at the U.N. General Assembly this year.
This year’s memorials come days ahead of the scheduled restarting of a civilian nuclear reactor in southern Japan — the first to go back on line for two years because of concerns following the disaster at the Fukushima atomic plant in 2011.
While Abe has pushed to switch the reactors back on, public opposition remains high after the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.
(Left) A woman cries as she offers prayers at the Peace Park before the 70th anniversary of the Nagasaki atomic bombing in Nagasaki, southern Japan, Sunday, Aug. 9. (Right) A girl offers a prayer for A-bomb victims before lanterns placed at the Peace Memorial Park in Nagasaki, on Saturday, Aug. 8, on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki.