Remembering the terrible toll of the nuclear attacks during World War II on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a senior United Nations official today appealed for an end to the use of the weapons, which remain an “apocalyptic” threat.
The two cities were destroyed in August 1945, and more than 200,000 people died of nuclear radiation, shock waves from the blasts and thermal radiation.
More than 400,000 more people have died – and are continuing to die – since the end of World War II from the impacts of the bombs.
Thousands of nuclear tests have been carried out in the decades since the war and there are more than 20,000 nuclear weapons in arsenals around the world, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Kiyotaka Akasaka said at the launch of a multimedia exhibit at UN Headquarters focusing on hibakusha, survivors of the Japanese attacks.
“This is why the international community’s commitment to non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament is so critical,” he added.
The exhibit will feature photographs which capture how survivors have lived their lives in the wake of the attacks, as well as artefacts recovered from blast areas and a 30-minute video entitled Hiroshima: A Mother’s Prayer.
The mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Tadatoshi Akiba and Tomihisa Taue, also spoke at the launch.
The exhibit’s opening coincided with the start of the five-yearly review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which got under way today in New York.
Representatives of more than 100 nations are gathering at UN Headquarters to discuss how to further full implementation and enhance the universality of the pact, which forms the foundation of the world’s non-proliferation regime.
At the start of the nearly month-long event this morning, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon exhorted countries to take decision action to build a safer world.
“We have a choice: to leave a legacy of fear and inaction… or to act with vision, courage and leadership,” he told the conference.
“We all know it is possible,” the Secretary-General said of disarmament and non-proliferation, which have been among his top priorities since taking office in 2007.
He characterized the NPT, the cornerstone of the world’s nuclear non-proliferation regime, as one of the most important global treaties ever reached.
With the nuclear threat still real, “we need this regime as much as ever,” Mr. Ban underscored.
The last NPT review conference in 2005 was a failure, he said, having wrapped up without any substantive agreement having been reached. “This time, we can – and must – do better.”