A woman prays for atomic bomb victims during a mass at the Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, western Japan, on Monday. JiJi Press / Agence France-Presse
TOKYO - The Japanese city of Nagasaki on Monday commemorated the 65th anniversary of its destruction by a US atomic bomb, with representatives from Britain and France attending for the first time.
But the absence of a US representative at the ceremony irritated some Nagasaki A-bomb survivors after Washington sent an envoy for the first time to the commemoration of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima.
Nagasaki was flattened in an atomic inferno three days after Hiroshima, twin nuclear attacks that rang in the nuclear age, giving Japan the bleak distinction of being the only country to be struck by atomic weapons.
The US embassy in Tokyo said in a statement that Ambassador John Roos, who attended the Hiroshima memorial, did not visit Nagasaki due to "scheduling reasons." His presence in Hiroshima was seen as a reflection of President Barack Obama's push for a world without nuclear weapons.
"I think the United States is impolite," Sumiteru Taniguchi, 81, head of the council of atomic-bomb survivors in Nagasaki, told Jiji Press. "I wanted them to come to Nagasaki and apologize."
Britain and France, the US' World War II allies and both declared nuclear powers, sent their first representatives to the ceremony in the western Japanese city on Friday and to Nagasaki on Monday, in a sign of support for the goal of nuclear disarmament.
Katsuki Masaki, who heads the association of families of Nagasaki bomb victims, said: "I welcomed their visit to Hiroshima. But I want them to understand that victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are inseparable."
Prime Minister Naoto Kan reiterated his comments from Friday that as the only nation to have suffered a nuclear attack, Japan "carries the moral responsibility to lead the actions to realize a world without nuclear arms."
With 32 countries represented, including Israel for the first time, the ceremony observed a moment of silence amid steady drizzle at 11:02 am local time, the time the bomb detonated on Aug 9, 1945.
Nagasaki mayor Tomihisa Taue called upon the world's nuclear powers to work toward nuclear disarmament, urged Japan to take a leadership role and gave support to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's calls to outlaw nuclear arms.
"We, as an atomic-bombed city, strongly support a convention to prohibit nuclear arms, which would equally ban any country from producing, possessing and using a nuclear weapon," said Taue.
Ban visited Nagasaki on Thursday last week ahead of the Hiroshima anniversary on Friday, when he became the first United Nations chief to attend the commemoration ceremony.
Nagasaki was devastated by a plutonium bomb nicknamed "Fat Man" which claimed more than 70,000 lives instantly or days later due to burns and radiation sickness.
"Little Boy," a four-ton uranium bomb, detonated over Hiroshima, killing an estimated 140,000 people.
Both bombs caused a blinding flash and a fireball hot enough to melt sand into glass and vaporize every human near ground zero.
Japan surrendered on Aug 15, ending World War II in the Pacific.
The US has never acceded to demands in Japan for an apology for the loss of innocent lives in the atomic bombings, which many Western historians believe were necessary to bring a quick end to the war and avoid a land invasion that could have been even more costly.
Others see the attacks as unnecessary and perhaps experimental atrocities.
(China Daily 08/10/2010 page11)