TOKYO: Japan has marked the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in a ceremony in the city.
Prime minister Shinzo Abe and foreign delegates were among those observing a moment of silence at the Peace Memorial Park in downtown Hiroshima at 8:15 am (local time) when the detonation turned the western Japanese city into an inferno.
The now-bustling city’s mayor, Kazumi Matsui, said nuclear weapons were an “absolute evil” as he urged the world to put an end to them forever.
“To coexist we must abolish the absolute evil and ultimate inhumanity that are nuclear weapons. Now is the time to start taking action,” he said in his annual speech.
One elderly man attending the ceremony told the ABC he saw the mushroom cloud from the bomb go up on August 6, 1945.
“My grandmother, schoolmates and relatives were all killed by the bomb,” he said.
“The wind blew in our direction and then I heard a loud bang – the sound came later as it was about two kilometers away.
“We were thrown onto the ground.”
Another elderly survivor paying her respects said: “I have become sick so I felt I had to come here this year. I’ve asked those who are already on the other side to come for me soon.”
An American B-29 bomber named Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb, dubbed “Little Boy”, on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, in one of the final chapters of World War II.
Nearly everything around it was incinerated, with the ground level hit by a wall of heat up to 4,000 degrees Celsius — hot enough to melt steel.
This year another 5,000 victims’ names were added to the cenotaph, bringing the total number of deaths caused by the bombing to almost 300,000.
On August 9, the port city of Nagasaki was also attacked with an atomic bomb, killing more than 70,000 people.
Japan surrendered days later, on August 15, 1945, bringing the war to a close.
Opinion remains divided about the necessity of attacks
Bells tolled and Mr. Abe laid a wreath at the ceremony attended by US ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and other officials.
Mr. Abe said Japan would redouble its efforts to bring about a world free of nuclear weapons.
“And that resolve translates us to propose a new draft resolution at the United Nations this autumn on nuclear disarmament,” he said.
Under-secretary for arms control Rose Gottemoeller attended the ceremony, the most senior US official sent from Washington to the annual memorial.
Opinion remains divided over whether the twin attacks were justified.
nder the famous Hiroshima dome, one of the few buildings left standing after the bombing, protesters staged a “die-in”, demanding an end to atomic weapons.
But the biggest protests were against the Japanese government’s push to reinterpret Japan’s pacifist constitution and let troops fight overseas again.
“Mr. Abe forced the Security Bill through. The method of proposing the bill was too forceful and against democracy and I don’t understand it,” one protester said.
While some historians say they prevented many more casualties in a planned land invasion, critics have said the attacks were not necessary to end the war, arguing Japan was already heading for imminent defeat.
Dropping the bombs, which were developed under strict secrecy, was hugely popular with war-weary Americans at the time, and 70 years on a majority today still think it was the right thing to do.
Fifty-six percent of Americans surveyed by the Pew Research Centre in February said using the atomic bomb on Japanese cities was justified, compared to 79 percent of Japanese respondents who said it was not.