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On the 77th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing at Hiroshima, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres doubled down on his harsh critique of nuclear weapons by saying they must be “wiped off the face of the Earth”.
Mr Guterres had earlier said at the start of a UN conference that the world was just “one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation”.
This time, he warned of a new global arms race putting the nuclear threat “back in focus” at a gathering in Hiroshima.
The UN chief joined thousands of others on Saturday at Peace Park in the centre of the Japanese city to mark the anniversary of the bombing that killed 140,000 before the end of 1945.
As the Peace Bell sounded, the crowd gathered at the park, including Japan prime minister Fumio Kishida, observed a moment of silence at the exact time the bomb exploded.
“Nuclear weapons are nonsense. They guarantee no safety - only death and destruction,” Mr Guterres said at the occasion.
“Three quarters of a century later, we must ask what we’ve learned from the mushroom cloud that swelled above this city in 1945.”
“We cannot forget the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We must act in their memory and wipe nuclear weapons off the face of the earth once and for all,” Mr Guterres later tweeted.
“At a time when geopolitical tensions are rising and the nuclear threat is back in focus, Japan’s strong and consistent voice on peace is more important than ever,” he added.
However, the UN chief sidestepped a direct mention of Russia, which calls its invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation”.
Prime minister Kishida said the use of nuclear weapons is once again becoming a “real problem”, adding that the momentum for a “world free of nuclear weapons” is seemingly receding.
“We must not repeat the tragedy of the use of nuclear weapons, I appeal to the people of the world with a loud voice,” Mr Kishida said.
“This is the responsibility of Japan, the only country to have ever suffered atomic bombings, and my pledge as Prime Minister, who hails from Hiroshima,” he added.
In Hiroshima today, I paid tribute to the tens of thousands of people killed by atomic bombs 77 years ago.
We cannot forget the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
We must act in their memory & wipe nuclear weapons off the face of the earth once and for all. pic.twitter.com/taMQFAjD92
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) August 6, 2022
Criticising Moscow’s military action against Ukraine, Hiroshima mayor Kazumi Matsui said the Russian leader “elected to protect the lives and property of his people, is using them as instruments of war.”
“Around the world, the notion that peace depends on nuclear deterrence gains momentum,” Mr Matsui warned, according to Reuters.
“These errors betray humanity’s determination, born of our experiences of war, to achieve a peaceful world free from nuclear weapons. To accept the status quo and abandon the ideal of peace maintained without military force is to threaten the very survival of the human race,” he said.
Earlier on Friday, Mr Kishida said China‘s military exercises aimed at Taiwan following the visit of US House speaker Nancy Pelosi to the island represents a “grave problem” threatening regional peace and security that needs to be “stopped immediately”.