U.S. joins Hiroshima A-bomb memorial for 1st time

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HIROSHIMA, Japan (AP) — A U.S. representative participated for the first time Friday in Japan‘s annual commemoration of the American atomic bombing of Hiroshima, in a 65th anniversary event that organizers hope will bolster global efforts toward nuclear disarmament.

The site of the world’s first A-bomb attack echoed with the choirs of schoolchildren and the solemn ringing of bells Friday as Hiroshima marked its biggest memorial yet. At 8:15 a.m. — the time the bomb dropped, incinerating most of the city — a moment of silence was observed.

Hiroshima’s mayor welcomed Washington’s decision to send U.S. Ambassador John Roos to Friday’s commemoration, which began with an offering of water to the 140,000 who died in the first of two nuclear bombings that prompted Japan‘s surrender in World War II.

Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba is also hoping that President Obama will visit Hiroshima, an idea that Mr. Obama has said he would like to consider but that would be highly controversial and unprecedented for a sitting U.S. president.

“We need to communicate to every corner of the globe the intense yearning of the survivors for the abolition of nuclear weapons,” Mr. Akiba told the 55,000 people at the ceremony.

Mr. Akiba called on the Japanese government to take a leadership role in nuclear disarmament toward “turning a new page in human history.”

“I offer my prayers to those who died — we will not make you be patient much longer.”

Along with the U.S., nuclear powers Britain and France also made their first official appearance at the memorial, as well as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Altogether, 74 nations were represented.

China, which sent a low-ranking official in 2008, was not participating. Officials said Beijing did not give a reason.

Hiroshima was careful to ensure that the memorial — while honoring the dead — emphasized a forward-looking approach, focusing not on whether the bombing was justified, a point which many Japanese dispute, but on averting any future nuclear attacks.

Mr. Roos said the memorial was a chance to show resolve toward nuclear disarmament, which Mr. Obama has emphasized as one of his administration’s top objectives.

“For the sake of future generations, we must continue to work together to realize a world without nuclear weapons,” Mr. Roos said in a statement.

Mr. Ban, who presented flowers at the Eternal Flame in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, said this year’s memorial will send a signal to the world that nuclear weapons must be destroyed.

“Life is short, but memory is long,” Mr. Ban said. “For many of you, that day endures … as vivid as the white light that seared the sky, as dark as the black rains that followed.”

Mr. Ban added that the time has come to move from “Ground Zero, to Global Zero” — a world without any nuclear arms.

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