US joins Hiroshima commemorations
A US representative participated for the first time on Friday in Japan's annual commemoration of the American atomic bombing of Hiroshima, in a 65th anniversary event that organisers 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 on Friday as Hiroshima marked its biggest memorial yet. At 8:15am - 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 US 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 the Second World WarI.
Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba is also hoping that President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, an idea that Obama has said he would like to consider but that would be highly controversial and unprecedented for a sitting US 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 US, nuclear powers Britain and France also made their first official appearance at the memorial, as well as UN 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 honouring the dead - emphasised 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.