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Friday, Aug. 10, 2007

Nagasaki mayor slams nuclear talk, tests

Staff writer

NAGASAKI — Nagasaki marked the 62nd anniversary of the atomic bombing here Thursday with criticism of nations that have tested or are suspected of possessing or pursuing nuclear weapons, and people in Japan who advocate acquiring them.

A relative of atomic bomb victims prays at the peace monument in Nagasaki's Peace Park on the 62nd anniversary of the bombing of the city
A relative of atomic bomb victims prays at the peace monument in Nagasaki's Peace Park on Thursday, the 62nd anniversary of the bombing of the city. KYODO PHOTO

"India, Pakistan and North Korea have taken up nuclear arms under the excuse of self-defense. In the Middle East, the nuclear nonproliferation structure is being shaken by Israel, generally regarded as possessing nuclear weapons, and by the suspicions of nuclear (arms) development in Iran," said Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue in the city's annual peace declaration.

But Taue reserved his sharpest criticism for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government, which saw Fumio Kyuma resign as defense minister last month for saying the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki "could not be helped" — remarks critics interpreted as implying he felt the attacks were justified.

Some of Abe's close advisers have even called on Japan to rethink its commitment to the three nonnuclear principles of not possessing, manufacturing or introducing atomic weapons.

Kyuma, who won his Lower House seat from a Nagasaki electoral district, usually attends the peace ceremony every year. But not this year.

"In the midst of erroneous interpretations of the atomic bombings and discussion of potential nuclear weapons possession in Japan, it's necessary to enact the three nonnuclear principles into law, not merely state them as national policy," Taue said.

Thursday's ceremony took place at Nagasaki Peace Park in the northern part of the city, which was the hypocenter of the blast that, by the end of 1945, had left 74,000 dead.

Survivors and kin of the dead began arriving at dawn to pay their respects before the formal ceremony, which included Abe and senior members of the ruling and opposition parties. City officials estimated that by the time the event began at 10:40 a.m., about 5,500 people were present.

With the strains of Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings" playing over loudspeakers, atomic bomb survivors and relatives approached the peace memorial, burning incense and offering prayers. Some said their biggest worry now was for the victims who were children when the bomb was dropped but are now elderly and suffering radiation-related illnesses.

Saburo Nishizawa, 70, who was in Nagasaki when the bomb was dropped, said many of those who were young when they survived the bomb remained healthy until middle age. "But they're now in their 60s and 70s and are falling ill to radiation-related illnesses. Unless the central government approves more of their applications, Nagasaki will have a health disaster on its hands in a few years."

The government has recognized about 250,000 people nationwide as victims of both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings, but has only approved 2,200 of them as patients officially suffering from radiation-related illnesses. Approval qualifies the patient for monthly benefits of approximately ¥140,000.

Earlier this week, Abe met hibakusha in Hiroshima and indicated he would consider making the approval process less strict.

"The government will take steps to review the application and approval process for those who are in need of care," Abe said Thursday before meeting with Nagasaki hibakusha in the afternoon.

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The Japan Times

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