TOKYO - The Japanese city of Nagasaki on Monday commemorated the 65th anniversary of its destruction by a US atomic bomb, with representatives from Britain and France attending for the first time.
Nagasaki was flattened in an atomic inferno three days after Hiroshima, twin nuclear attacks that rang in the nuclear age and gave Japan the bleak distinction of being the only country to be struck by atomic weapons.
The US was not at Monday`s ceremony due to what it called a scheduling issue but did send an envoy for the first time to the commemoration of the Hiroshima bomb Friday, in a reflection of President Barack Obama`s push for a world without nuclear weapons.
The United States` World War II allies Britain and France, both declared nuclear powers, sent their first representatives to the ceremony in the western Japanese city Friday and to Nagasaki Monday, in a sign of support for the goal of nuclear disarmament.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan reiterated his comments from Friday that as the only nation to have suffered a nuclear attack, Japan "carries the moral responsibility to lead the actions to realise a world without nuclear arms".
With 32 countries represented, including Israel for the first time, the ceremony observed a moment of silence amid steady drizzle at 11:02 am (0202 GMT), the time the bomb detonated on August 9, 1945.
The US Embassy in Tokyo said in a statement that Ambassador John Roos did not attend due to schedule conflicts.
Nagasaki mayor Tomihisa Taue called upon the world`s nuclear powers to work toward nuclear disarmament, urged Japan to take a leadership role and gave support to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon`s calls to outlaw nuclear arms.
"We, as an atomic-bombed city, strongly support a convention to prohibit nuclear arms, which would equally ban any country from producing, possessing and using a nuclear weapon," said Taue.
Ban visited Nagasaki on Thursday last week ahead of the Hiroshima anniversary, becoming the first United Nations chief to attend the ceremony on Friday.
Nagasaki was devastated by a plutonium bomb nicknamed "Fat Man", which claimed more than 70,000 lives instantly or days later due to burns and radiation sickness.
"Little Boy", a four-tonne uranium bomb, detonated over Hiroshima, killing an estimated 140,000 people.
Both bombs caused a blinding flash and a fireball hot enough to melt sand into glass and vaporise every human near ground zero.
Japan surrendered on August 15, ending World War II in the Pacific.
The United States has never acceded to demands in Japan for an apology for the loss of innocent lives in the atomic bombings, which many Western historians believe were necessary to bring a quick end to the war and avoid a land invasion that could have been even more costly.
Others see the attacks as unnecessary and perhaps experimental atrocities.
BDST: 11.31 HRS, August 09, 2010