Japan marks the 70th anniversary of the devastating atomic bombing of Nagasaki that killed thousands of people just before the end of World War Two.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe renewed his commitment to a nuclear weapons free Japan on Sunday during a ceremony at the Nagasaki Peace Park, where a minute's silence and bells marked the time of the atomic bombing at 11:02 (02:02 GMT), that had turned the city into ashes. Nagasaki was chosen as the target because the original target city, Kokura was buried by clouds on that day.
At least 70,000 people were killed during the bombing in Nagasaki, just three days after Hiroshima's devastating atomic bomb attack that killed more than 140,000 Japanese.
Japan was forced to surrender following the atomic bomb attacks, ending the war, however suffering its repercussion in Japanese society years on.
Washington, to this day, has not officially apologised for carrying out the bombings, with the majority of Americans still believing that it was “the right thing to do.”
US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy was among representatives from 75 countries who attended the ceremony.
"As the only nation in the world to have suffered a war-time nuclear attack, I have renewed my resolve to play a leading role in pursuing a world without nuclear weapons and maintain the three non-nuclear principles," Abe reportedly said.
Abe's speech in the ceremony criticized over constitutional changes by the survivors of this horrific attack, who believe the PM's policies would create a militarist country once again.
“We cannot accept this,” 86-year-old Sumiteru Taniguchi told AP about the new legislation, as he recounted his traumatic injuries and agony after the attack on Nagasaki.
"The security bills which the government is trying to push through would jeopardise our long-time movement for nuclear abolition and hopes of hibakusha (atom-bomb survivors)," he said.
Japan’s powerful lower house of parliament approved a security bill last month for the country’s security forces to fight abroad for first time since World War Two. The controversial bill was protested by thousands in the country who believe it will hurt the 70 year pacifist constitution, drafted by Americans after the war, by expanding the role of the military.
Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue also touched on the issue during the ceremony, saying there is a “widespread unease” about the bill.
“I urge the government of Japan to listen to these voices of unease and concern,” the AP quoted Taue.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sent a message that was read out during the event, calling the abolishment of nuclear weapons.
“Nagasaki must be the last - we cannot allow any future use of nuclear weapons. The humanitarian consequences are too great. I wholeheartedly join you in sounding a global rallying cry: No more Nagasakis. No more Hiroshimas,” Ban said in his message.
Abe is also expected to visit Tokyo's controversial Yasukuni shrine next week to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War Two.
The shrine is seen by critics such as China, parts of which were occupied by Japan before and during World War Two, and South Korea, where bitter memories of Japan's 1910-1945 colonization persist, as a symbol of Japan's past militarism, because it honors wartime leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as war criminals along with millions of war dead.
Abe's conservative agenda includes recasting Japan's wartime history in a less apologetic tone, although he said his statement will express "remorse" for Japan's war-time actions and his aim is not to glorify war, but to honor those who fought and died for their country.