Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has marked the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki by renewing his commitment to a nuclear weapons free Japan, following criticism for not making the same pledge on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing last week.
“As the only nation in the world to have suffered a war-time nuclear attack, I have renewed my resolve to play a leading role in pursuing a world without nuclear weapons and maintain the three non-nuclear principles,” Abe said in Nagasaki Peace Park on Sunday.
The “three non-nuclear principles” are Japan’s long-standing policy of not possessing or producing nuclear arms and not letting others bring them into the country.
Japan marked the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki that claimed tens of thousands of lives in one of the final chapters of World War II.
Memorial services were held in the now bustling port city, with Prime Minister and US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy in attendance.
Bells tolled as ageing survivors, the relatives of victims and others remembered the devastating blast at 11:02am local time (02:02 GMT) on August 9, 1945.
About 74,000 people died in the initial blast near a major arms factory from a plutonium bomb dubbed “Fat Man”, or from after-effects in the months and years following the bombing.
The attack on Nagasaki came three days after American B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped a bomb, dubbed “Little Boy”, on Hiroshima, the first atomic bombing in history.
Nearly everything around it was incinerated by a wall of heat up to 4,000 degrees Celsius – hot enough to melt steel.
Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from Tokyo, said that Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue had used his speech at Sunday’s memorial service to warn against the government’s new security legislation.
Abe’s coalition last month approved controversial legislations in the lower house of parliament that would lift a ban on sending troops to fight abroad, despite much opposition from lawmakers and thousands protesting against it outside the parliament building.
Fawcett said Mayor Taue on Sunday had called on the government to ensure that “sincere and careful deliberation” took place before it proceeded with the laws.
About 140,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the Hiroshima attack, including those who survived the bombing itself but later died from radiation sickness.
Gums bled, teeth fell out, hair came off in clumps; there were cancers, premature births, malformed babies and sudden deaths.
The twin bombings dealt the final blows to Imperial Japan, which surrendered on August 15, 1945, bringing an end to World War II.
While some historians say that they prevented many more casualties in a planned 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 to abolish nuclear weapons at the UN General Assembly later this year.
“As the only country ever attacked by an atomic bomb … we have a mission to create a world without nuclear arms,” he told the crowd.
“We have been tasked with conveying the inhumanity of nuclear weapons, across generations and borders.”
This year’s memorials come days ahead of the scheduled restart of a nuclear reactor in southern Japan – the first one to go back on line after a two-year hiatus following the tsunami-sparked disaster at Fukushima in 2011.