Japan marked the 71st anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Saturday, with officials calling on world leaders to follow United States President Barack Obama's historic visit to the city to promote the battle against nuclear proliferation.
During a memorial ceremony at the Peace Memorial Park, Mayor Kazumi Matsui quoted a part of Obama’s speech in May when he said "those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear, and pursue a world without them."
Local news agency Kyodo quoted Matsui as saying that Obama's words showed he was touched by "the spirit of Hiroshima" and its refusal to accept nuclear weapons.
He called on leaders from all nations to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki to "etch the reality of the atomic bombings in each [leader's] heart."
The Aug. 6, 1945 bombing of Hiroshima during World War II left an estimated 140,000 people dead by the end of the year, while the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki three days later killed an estimated 74,000 people.
Japan, the only country to have suffered nuclear attacks, surrendered six days after the bombing of Nagasaki.
Around 50,000 people -- including representatives from 91 countries such as the U.S., Britain, France and Russia -- attended Saturday’s ceremony, during which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan will "continue to make various efforts to bring about 'a world free of nuclear weapons'”.
He underlined the country would do so by “calling for cooperation from both nuclear weapons states and non-nuclear weapons states and having world leaders and young people become directly acquainted with the tragic reality of the atomic bombing".
Abe echoed Matsui's call and urged young people to also visit the city to “learn about the reality of the atomic bombing”, according to Kyodo.