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Yahoo! News   Tuesday, August 06, 2002
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Hiroshima Hits 'Pax Americana' at A-Bomb Memorial
Mon Aug 5, 8:19 PM ET

By Eriko Sugita

HIROSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) - The mayor of Hiroshima marked the anniversary of the world's first atomic bombing with a sharp rebuke for what critics charge is President Bush ( news - web sites)'s unilateral diplomacy -- and an invitation to Bush to visit the city destroyed in a nuclear inferno 57 years ago.

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In an annual ritual of remembrance for the more than 220,000 people who ultimately died from the blast, a crowd including survivors, children and dignitaries gathered at Hiroshima's Peace Park, near ground zero where the bomb was dropped.

The anniversary comes days after a reminder that Japan -- which has made much of its status as the only nation to suffer a nuclear attack -- was researching an atomic bomb during World War II, and just months after a top politician hinted Tokyo might someday abandon its decades-old ban on nuclear weapons.

The Peace Bell tolled at 8:15 a.m. -- the precise moment the Enola Gay B-29 warplane dropped the bomb on August 6, 1945 -- as the crowd stood and bowed their heads for a minute of silence in the still summer heat.

The United States dropped a second atomic bomb on the southern city of Nagasaki on August 9.

Six days later, Japan surrendered.

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba lamented the world's growing tendency to forget the horrors of the atomic bomb and warned his audience that the dangers of nuclear war were rising.

"For the victims of the atomic bomb...once again, a hot and bitter summer has returned," Akiba said. "With the return of the heat, the memories of that misery also return.

"What is even more bitter is that those memories are fading from the world," he said. He added that the possibility of history's repeating itself had grown since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Akiba invited Bush to Hiroshima "to confirm with his own eyes what nuclear weapons can do to human beings" and lashed out at Washington's go-it-alone stance.

"America has not been given the right to impose a 'Pax Americana' and to decide the fate of the world," Akiba said.

"Rather, we, the people of the world, have the right to insist that we have not given you the authority to destroy the world."


While Japan each year solemnly mourns its own war dead, less attention is paid to the victims of its military aggression and hardly any to the fact that its own military was engaged in research on an atomic bomb during World War II.

In a small but timely reminder of that research, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said at the weekend that secret documents on Japan's nuclear efforts, taken out of the country in 1949, had been returned to the institute in charge of the research.

Historians have long known about the research, although how much progress was made is a subject of debate.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi pledged at the memorial to keep Japan's decades-old ban on nuclear weapons -- a stance which was called into question earlier this year when one of his key cabinet ministers suggested the policy might change someday.

"Resolved not to repeat the calamities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our nation -- the only one to experience an atomic bombing -- has obeyed our peace constitution and preserved its three non-nuclear principles not to have, make or import nuclear weapons," Koizumi said.

"There is no change in that stance."

Conservative politicians, however, have become more outspoken in challenging Japan's postwar pacifism and recent legislation has tested the limits on the ban on war imposed by the U.S.-drafted constitution.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, a close Koizumi aide, came under fire in June for hinting Japan might revise its "three non-nuclear principles" adopted in 1971.

Fears over domestic and diplomatic fallout have usually meant that politicians are forced to retract any suggestion Japan should arm itself with nuclear weapons. Fukuda later said his remarks had been blown out of proportion.

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