Hiroshima: Japan said it would stand by a self-imposed ban on nuclear weapons as it commemorated the 64th anniversary on Thursday of the world`s first atomic attack on the western city of Hiroshima.
The vow by Prime Minister Taro Aso to maintain the ban on the possession, production or import of nuclear arms comes after North Korea raised regional tensions with a nuclear test earlier this year.
"I promise again that Japan will continue to adhere to its three non-nuclear principles and take the lead within the international community to abolish nuclear weapons and bring about lasting peace," Aso told a memorial service attended by elderly survivors, children and dignitaries.
Japan often refers to its position as the only country to suffer nuclear attacks when calling for the abolition of atomic weapons. The United States dropped a second atomic bomb on the southern city of Nagasaki days after the one on Hiroshima.
Tokyo does, however, benefit from the shelter of a "nuclear umbrella" extended by its biggest ally, Washington, and many in Japan would be reluctant to see the United States` nuclear deterrent significantly weakened while regional threats remain.
A former Japanese government official recently revealed in media interviews that Tokyo had secretly agreed with Washington in 1960 that Japan would allow stopovers by US military aircraft or vessels carrying nuclear weapons. Japan has repeatedly denied having made such a deal.
Nuke-free world by 2020
Hiroshima Mayor has called for the total abolition of nuclear weapons in the coming decade.
Tadatoshi Akiba praised US President Barack Obama for his anti-nuclear views as he delivered a speech at the memorial, within sight of the A-bomb dome, a former exhibition hall burned to a skeleton by the bomb`s intense heat.
The Mayor noted Obama said in an address that as the only nuclear power to have used an atomic weapon, the United States has "a moral responsibility to act" to realise a nuclear-free world.
"Nuclear weapons abolition is the will not only of the hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) but also of the vast majority of people and nations on this planet," he said.
"We refer to ourselves, the great global majority, as the `Obamajority,` and we call on the rest of the world to join forces with us to eliminate all nuclear weapons by 2020."
Those attending the memorial ceremony stood up and offered silent prayers at 8:15 am, the exact moment in 1945 when the bomb was dropped.
Suits over A-bomb-related illnesses
The Japanese government is in the final stages of crafting a blanket solution for plaintiffs who sued to be recognised as suffering from illnesses related to the 1945 US atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said.
Prime Minister Taro Aso and Health Minister Yoichi Masuzoe were to discuss the matter in the city of Hiroshima, Kawamura told a news conference. If they reach a conclusion there, he said yesterday, "I can report to you here tomorrow."
The government is considering certifying plaintiffs who have won district court-level lawsuits over the issue as persons suffering from radiation-related illnesses even though high courts have yet to rule on their cases, according to people briefed on the developments.
For those who have lost their cases at district courts, the government is considering creating a fund through lawmaker-sponsored legislation to compensate them, the sources said.
Meanwhile, lawyers representing the plaintiffs yesterday told a news conference that they expect Aso and Masuzoe to show their political leadership in swiftly reaching a blanket solution.