Humanity is playing with a “loaded gun” as crises with the potential for nuclear disaster proliferate worldwide, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in the Japanese city of Hiroshima on the 77th anniversary of the first atomic bomb attack.
The United States dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, destroying the city and killing 140,000 people. It dropped a second atomic bomb three days later on Nagasaki, killing more than 70,000. Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945, ending World War II.
At an annual memorial on Saturday for the dropping of the first nuclear bomb, Guterres warned of the risk posed by crises in Ukraine, the Middle East and the Korean peninsula as he described the horrors endured in the Japanese city during World War II.
“Tens of thousands of people were killed in this city in the blink of an eye. Women, children and men were incinerated in a hellish fire,” the UN chief said.
“We must ask: What have we learned from the mushroom cloud that swelled above this city?”
Fears of a third atomic bombing have grown amid Russia’s threats of a nuclear attack since its war on Ukraine began in February.
Repeating warnings he made this week at a nuclear non-proliferation treaty conference in New York, Guterres said “crises with grave nuclear undertones are spreading fast”.
“Humanity is playing with a loaded gun,” he said.
‘People as instruments of war’
Before dawn, survivors and their relatives began to gather at Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park to pay tribute to the victims.
A silent prayer was held at 8:15am local time (23:15 GMT), the moment the bomb was dropped.
The Russian ambassador was not invited to the ceremony but visited Hiroshima on Thursday to lay flowers at the memorial site.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, President Vladimir Putin has made thinly veiled threats hinting at a willingness to deploy tactical nuclear weapons.
Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui, in his peace declaration on Saturday, accused Putin of “using his own people as instruments of war and stealing the lives and livelihoods of innocent civilians in another country”.
Russia’s war on Ukraine is helping build support for nuclear deterrence, Matsui said, urging the world not to repeat the mistakes that destroyed his city 77 years ago.
Matsui cited Leo Tolstoy, the Russian author of War and Peace, saying: “Never build your…