Nagasaki mayor blasts government for failing to back non-nuclear pact

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Nagasaki’s mayor has criticised Japan’s government for failing to back an international nuclear disarmament effort as the country marked the 68th anniversary of the atomic bombing of his city.

Tomihisa Taue’s criticism stemmed from Japan’s refusal to sign in April a document in which nearly 80 countries pledged to never use nuclear weapons.

He said Japan’s inaction “betrayed expectations of the global community”.

The document, prepared in Geneva by a UN committee, is largely symbolic because none of the signatories possesses nuclear weapons. None of the countries known to have a nuclear arsenal including the US, Russia, India and Pakistan signed it.

Japan also does not possess a nuclear device and has pledged not to produce any although some hawkish members of the ruling party say the country should consider a nuclear option.

Mr Taue said that as the world’s only victim of atomic bombing, Japan’s refusal to join the initiative contradicted its non-nuclear pledge. “I call on the government of Japan to return to the origin of our pledge as an atomic-bombed country,” he said at a peace park near the epicentre of the blast.

Tokyo apparently refused to sign the document because of a security arrangement with the United States, which in theory could give the US an option to deploy nuclear weapons from Japan to counter the threat of North Korea.

That implied Japan’s government would approve a nuclear option under some circumstances, Mr Taue said.

About 6,000 people attended the ceremony for the victims of atomic bombings – on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945 and on Hiroshima three days earlier. The bombings prompted Japan’s surrender in the Second World War. The Hiroshima blast killed 140,000 people, and 70,000 died in Nagasaki.

Mr Taue also expressed concerns about Japan resuming negotiations with India toward a nuclear cooperation agreement. The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami virtually destroyed the Fukushima nuclear plant, which spewed radiation and led to evacuation of thousands of people.