United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon called on Thursday for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, during a visit to Nagasaki, one of the two Japanese cities hit by US atom bombs in World War II.
“The only way to ensure that such weapons will never again be used is to eliminate them all,” Ban said as he met with elderly survivors, known as “hibakusha,” at the ground zero site of the blast.
Speaking close to the 65th anniversary of the attack, Ban pledged “solidarity with the citizens of Nagasaki” and said: “I have come to honour the hibakusha for the extraordinary hardships they have had to endure.”
On Friday, Ban will become the first UN chief to attend the anniversary ceremony commemorating the August 6, 1945 atom bomb attack on Hiroshima, which was followed three days later by the Nagasaki bombing.
Representatives from more than 70 nations are expected in Hiroshima.
The United States and its WWII allies Britain and France will for the first time send envoys to attend the event, which will feature a minute’s silence and the release of 1,000 white doves, the symbol of peace.
The change in attitude from the three nations, all declared nuclear-armed states, reflects a growing international push for nuclear disarmament, a goal long promoted by Japan and shared by US President Barack Obama.
The US atomic attacks killed 140,000 people in Hiroshima and more than 70,000 in Nagasaki, either instantly or later through the horrific effects of burns from the white-hot nuclear blast and radiation sickness.
Japan’s wartime Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s surrender on August 15.
Ban, the first UN secretary general to visit the southwestern city of Nagasaki, toured a museum for atomic bomb victims where he met survivors.
“I lost five brothers in the 10 days after the atomic bombing,” one of the hibakusha told Ban, TV reports showed. “War is very cruel.”