Japan observed the 71st anniversary of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Saturday, with the city's mayor calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons and for more world leaders to visit the site.
About 50,000 people attended the ceremony, offering a minute’s silence at 8:15 am (2315 GMT Friday) at the Peace Memorial Park near ground zero, at the exact moment when a US B-29 bomber dropped an atomic bomb on the city 71 years ago in the closing days of World War II.
“Today, we renew our determination, offer heartfelt consolation to the souls of the atomic-bomb victims, and pledge to do everything in our power ... to abolish nuclear weapons and build lasting world peace,” said Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui.
Representatives from 91 countries, including nuclear powers such as the United States, Britain, Russia and France, participated in the ceremony.
Matsui addresed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was at the ceremony, saying that “a nuclear-weapon-free-world would manifest the noble pacifism of the Japanese constitution.”
The prime minister wants to change the country's war-renouncing constitution after his ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s victory in the July upper house elections.
Article 9 of the constitution prohibits the use of force to settle international disputes.
Interest in Hiroshima was heightened this year after Barack Obama became the first incumbent US president to visit the site of the attack in May.
The president’s trip was preceded by a visit from US Secretary of State John Kerry in April, who paid tribute to the victims of the attack alongside his counterparts from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.
On Saturday, Matsui urged more world leaders to visit the site of the atomic bombing.
The first use of nuclear weapons against humans annihilated Hiroshima, killing tens of thousands instantly. By the end of 1945, some 140,000 people had died. A second atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki three days later on August 9.
The Health Ministry said the number of atomic bombing survivors stood at 174,080 as of March and that their average age was over 80 years. Many of them have suffered from the after-effects of radiation.