Hiroshima remembers atomic bombing on 73rd anniversary

TOKYO (AP) — Hiroshima marked the anniversary of the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing of the city with a somber ceremony Monday to remember those killed and injured and a call to eliminate nuclear weapons amid hopes of denuclearizing North Korea.

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui opened his speech by describing the hellish scene of the blast that morning 73 years ago and the agony of the victims, telling the audience to listen "as if you and your loved ones were there." Then he raised concerns about the global rise of egocentrism and tensions, and urged Japan's government to take more leadership toward achieving a truly nuclear-free world.

"Certain countries are blatantly proclaiming self-centered nationalism and modernizing their nuclear arsenals, rekindling tensions that had eased with the end of the Cold War," Matsui said, without identifying the nations. Nuclear deterrence and nuclear umbrellas are "inherently unstable and extremely dangerous" approaches that seek to maintain international order by only generating fear in rival countries, he said, urging world leaders to negotiate in good faith to eliminate nuclear arsenals instead.

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Japan honors 73rd anniversary of Hiroshima bombing
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Japan honors 73rd anniversary of Hiroshima bombing
A girl releases paper lanterns on the Motoyasu river facing the gutted Atomic Bomb Dome in remembrance of atomic bomb victims on the 73rd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, western Japan, August 6, 2018, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A girl with painted hands and face participates in a peace rally to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the world's first atomic bombing in the Japanese city of Hiroshima during World War 2, in Mumbai, India, August 6, 2018. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas
ROME, ITALY - AUGUST 6: On the 73rd anniversary of the atomic bomb dropped by the United States on the Japanese city of Hiroshima during World War II, killing thousands of people, the Committee 'Earth and Peace' pay their respects on August 6, 2018 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Stefano Montesi - Corbis/Getty Images)
The Hiroshima Atomic Bomb dome (front L) and Peace Memorial Park (C) are seen as people attend the 73rd anniversary memorial service for the atomic bomb victims in Hiroshima on August 6, 2018. - A bell tolled on August 6 in Hiroshima as Japan marked 73 years since the world's first atomic bombing, with the city's mayor warning that rising nationalism worldwide threatened peace. (Photo by JIJI PRESS / JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
People burn incense and offer prayers in the early morning prior to the 73rd anniversary memorial service for the atomic bomb victims at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima on August 6, 2018. - A US B-29 plane dropped a bomb over the city at 8:15am on August 6, 1945, marking the first use of an atomic weapon which ultimately claimed the lives of some 140,000 people. (Photo by JIJI PRESS / JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
Visitors lays flowers and pray for the atomic bomb victims in front of the cenotaph at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Western Japan on August 6, 2018. Japan marks the 73rd anniversary of the first atomic bomb that was dropped by the United States on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. The bomb instantly killed an estimated 70,000 people and thousands more in coming years from radiation effects. Three days later the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki which ended World War II. (Photo: Richard Atrero de Guzman/NUR Photo) (Photo by Richard Atrero de Guzman/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Visitors lays flowers and pray for the atomic bomb victims in front of the cenotaph at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Western Japan on August 6, 2018. Japan marks the 73rd anniversary of the first atomic bomb that was dropped by the United States on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. The bomb instantly killed an estimated 70,000 people and thousands more in coming years from radiation effects. Three days later the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki which ended World War II. (Photo: Richard Atrero de Guzman/NUR Photo) (Photo by Richard Atrero de Guzman/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (3rd L) offers a silent prayer during the 73rd anniversary memorial service for the atomic bomb victims at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima on August 6, 2018. - A US B-29 plane dropped a bomb over the city at 8:15am on August 6, 1945, marking the first use of an atomic weapon which ultimately claimed the lives of some 140,000 people. (Photo by JIJI PRESS / JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui (R) offers a new list of A-bomb dead, including individuals who died since last year's anniversary from the side effects of radiation, during the 73rd anniversary memorial service for the atomic bomb victims at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima on August 6, 2018. - A bell tolled on August 6 in Hiroshima as Japan marked 73 years since the world's first atomic bombing, with the city's mayor making a passionate plea for a world without nuclear weapons. (Photo by JIJI PRESS / JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a speech during the 73rd anniversary memorial service for the atomic bomb victims at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima on August 6, 2018. - A US B-29 plane dropped a bomb over the city at 8:15am on August 6, 1945, marking the first use of an atomic weapon which ultimately claimed the lives of some 140,000 people. (Photo by JIJI PRESS / JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
Visitors lays flowers and pray for the atomic bomb victims in front of the cenotaph at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Western Japan on August 6, 2018. Japan marks the 73rd anniversary of the first atomic bomb that was dropped by the United States on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. The bomb instantly killed an estimated 70,000 people and thousands more in coming years from radiation effects. Three days later the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki which ended World War II. (Photo: Richard Atrero de Guzman/NUR Photo) (Photo by Richard Atrero de Guzman/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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The U.S. attack on Hiroshima killed 140,000 people, and the bombing of Nagasaki killed more than 70,000 three days later, leading to Japan's surrender and ending World War II.

Matsui said in his speech that Japan's government should do more to achieve a nuclear-free world by helping the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons take effect. Japan, which hosts U.S. troops and is covered by the U.S. nuclear umbrella protecting it from attack, has not signed the treaty.

Japan should live up to the spirit of its pacifist constitution to lead the international community "toward dialogue and cooperation for a world without nuclear weapons," Matsui said.

About 50,000 people, including Hiroshima residents and representatives from 58 countries, including U.S. Ambassador William Hagerty, attended this year's ceremony.

Survivors, their relatives and other participants marked the 8:15 a.m. blast with a minute of silence.

The anniversary comes amid hopes to denuclearize North Korea after President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made vague aspirational statements of denuclearizing the peninsula when they met in Singapore in June. "We in civil society fervently hope that the easing of tensions on the Korean Peninsula will proceed through peaceable dialogue," Matsui said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who also was at the ceremony, said differences between the nuclear and non-nuclear states are widening. But he pledged to do more to bridge their gap. In order to gain cooperation from both sides, it is important for everyone to understand "the reality of the tragedy of nuclear attacks," he said, reiterating Japan's pledge to maintain its pacifist and non-nuclear principles.

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