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2ND LD: Nagasaki mayor calls on humanity to choose path to nuke-free world.

NAGASAKI, Aug. 9 Kyodo

(EDS: ADDING INFO)

Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue on Sunday called on people around the globe to choose the path toward a world free of nuclear weapons, echoing a call made earlier by U.S. President Barack Obama, as the southwestern Japanese city commemorated the 64th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing.

''We, as human beings, now have two paths before us,'' Taue said in his Peace Declaration read out at a memorial ceremony at Nagasaki Peace Park. ''While one can lead us to 'a world without nuclear weapons,' the other will carry us toward annihilation.''

The declaration followed the one by Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, who urged the world three days earlier to join the city's effort to abolish nuclear weapons in response to Obama's appeal for a nuclear arms-free world.

In April, Obama said in Prague that the United States will seek a world without nuclear weapons, creating a wave of optimism among those who are petitioning for the abolishment of nuclear arms across the world.

''President Obama's speech was a watershed event, in that the United States, a superpower possessing nuclear weapons, finally took a step toward the elimination of nuclear armaments,'' Taue said, adding that people in Nagasaki are circulating petitions urging the U.S. leader to visit the city, which was devastated by the 1945 bombing.

As for Japan's role, Taue said the country must take a leading role in disseminating around the world the ''ideals of peace and renunciation of war'' as stipulated in its Constitution, as the only nation to have suffered nuclear bombings.

The mayor also urged the Japanese government to legislate its three non-nuclear principles of not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons on Japanese territory, and work on creating a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Northeast Asian region including North Korea.

A moment of silence was observed at 11:02 a.m., the time when a U.S. bomber dropped an atomic bomb on the city on Aug. 9, 1945, killing an estimated 74,000 people by the end of that year. The bombing occurred three days after the first one was dropped on Hiroshima.

A total of 3,304 people were additionally recognized in the past year as fatalities from the bombing of Nagasaki, bringing the total number of those who have died as a result of it to 149,266, according to city government officials.

Speaking at the ceremony, Ayako Okumura, a 72-year-old atomic bomb survivor, touched on Obama's speech, saying, ''I feel as if finally, after 64 years, the voices of atomic bomb survivors have reached the world. It means a great deal to me.''

Okumura, who was some 500 meters away from the hypocenter during the bombing, lost her eight family members, and is now involved in activities to tell her story to students on school trips and take them around memorial sites.

About 6,000 people took part in the ceremony, which was attended by diplomats from 29 nations, including Russia, the only nuclear power among them.

This year's anniversary comes on the heels of North Korea conducting a second nuclear test in May, in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Taue touched on Pyongyang's conduct, saying, ''As long as the world continues to rely on nuclear deterrence and nuclear weapons continue to exist, the possibility always exists that dangerous nations like North Korea and terrorists will emerge.''

He urged the international community to make North Korea destroy its nuclear arsenal and said the five major nuclear powers -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- must ''fulfill their responsibility to reduce nuclear arms.''

In support of Taue, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, president of the U.N. General Assembly, told the ceremony, ''The only certain way to assure that nuclear weapons will never be used again is to eliminate them outright.''

''I join the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and their many collaborators across the world in endorsing their call for achieving a nuclear-free world by 2020, a date that coincides with the 75th anniversary of the 1945 bombing,'' he said.

Also attending the ceremony, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso pledged to stick to Japan's three non-nuclear principles as he gave a speech similar to the one he delivered in Hiroshima three days earlier.

Aso also mentioned an agreement reached Thursday between the government and people suffering from atomic bombing-related illnesses under which the state will provide a blanket resolution to all 306 plaintiffs who have sought recognition as suffering from illnesses caused by the bombings.

The move came after the state lost 19 straight lawsuits filed across the country over the certification issue, putting an end to their six-year-long legal battle.

Following the memorial ceremony, five Nagasaki-based groups of atomic bomb survivors jointly submitted a petition to Aso, asking the government to enact measures to relieve all atomic bomb disease sufferers, including those who live abroad, while conducting health checkups of their children and grandchildren.

Earlier in the morning, a series of masses commemorating victims of the atomic bombing were held at Urakami Cathedral near the hypocenter as several hundreds, including the survivors, prayed for the victims' souls and world peace.

Yaeko Kataoka, a 64-year-old survivor who attended the mass from 6:00 a.m., said she is hopeful for a world without nuclear weapons but not so optimistic about achieving the goal in the near future.

''Reduction of nuclear arms is not sufficient enough because as long as some countries possess them, they could use them. It has to be a total elimination (of nuclear arms),'' Kataoka said after attending the mass.

''In that sense, I can't just be hunky-dory after hearing President Obama's speech.''

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, a total of 235,569 survivors were living throughout Japan as of March 31, down 8,123 from the year before, with their average age at 75.92, while some 4,500 hibakusha live overseas.

Japan surrendered Aug. 15, 1945, six days after the second atomic bomb turned Nagasaki into a silent ruin, bringing an end to World War II.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Aug 10, 2009
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