Thursday, August 05, 2010

Hiroshima marks 65th anniversary

For the first time in history a US representative will attend the commemorations held at the peace park in Hiroshima on Friday. US ambassador to Japan, John Roos, will join Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan, officials and survivors in marking 65 years since America dropped the first nuclear bomb used in war.

The bomb which many American believe brought World War II to an early end, killed upward of 90,000 people. On the 9th August another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki killing a further 60,000 or more [Wikipedia].

Whether or not the use of the weapons brought a swift end to the war in the Pacific, their use polarized opinion and spawned a peace movement around the world calling for the destruction of all nuclear weapons. Survivor Masahiro Kunishige has long kept his silence about what he witness at 08:15 on the 6th August. But 65 years on he has decided to speak out in an attempt to persuade leader to move on a path of nuclear disarmament. "I used to be filled with bitterness, and wanted retribution ... I now believe working to rid the world of nuclear weapons is the best way to find that retribution," he says. But he is pragmatic enough to realise it will take many years. 

As the US and its second world war allies, France and Britain, send delegations to the annual memorial, he sees this as a turning point. "It is a small, but significant step forward," Kunishige says [Al Jazeera].

According to the Financial Times, Ambassador John Roos is representing the US in the City of Peace "to express regret for all of the victims of World War II". However there appeared to be some confusion whether it was "regret" or "respect" that was being offered. Fox News reported that the US was not ready to apologise. It quoted the US State Dept as saying, "Ambassador Roos will attend the ceremony to express respect for all the victims of World War II. From the tragedy of that war, the U.S. and Japan have become close friends and allies. We must continue to work together to ensure that such a tragedy does not happen again."

Nonetheless his appearance was still welcomed with Japan's foreign minister Katsuya Okada calling it "a big first step". Around the world there will be other events marking Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In London an exhibition opens at the Brunei Gallery displaying portraits of some 65 survivors [Guardian].
As the threat of nuclear terrorism  grows and tensions increase as nations such as North Korea and Iran develop their own weapons, the risks of annihilation remain. But it has not put off the peace activists and the survivors who still campaign.

"Denuclearisation [sic] has got to happen," says 79 year old Kunishige, "I have to believe this otherwise I would be wasting my time telling my story". But he knows it will not happen soon. "I am sure it will never happen in our lifetime or for a very long time for that matter, but I believe it will happen. Maybe in our grandchildren's generation." [Pictured: Hiroshima in 1950]

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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