People pray for the atomic bomb victims at the Motoyasu River in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima prefecture, Japan, on August 6, 2022. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 6 (UPI) -- The Japanese city of Hirohima on Saturday paused to remember the 77th anniversary of the U.S. nuclear attack that killed an estimated 140,000 people in the waning days of World War II.
Representatives from 99 nations and the European Union attended the annual ceremony at Peace Memorial Park, where the crowd gathered observed a moment of silence at 8:15 a.m. -- the exact moment the U.S. uranium bomb detonated over the city on Aug. 6, 1945. Three days later, a second bomb would kill another 70,000 people in Nagasaki.
In his remarks, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui made a stark plea to world leaders.
"We must immediately render all nuclear buttons meaningless," he said, according to Kyodo News.
"To accept the status quo and abandon the ideal of peace maintained without military force is to threaten the very survival of the human race," Matsui added.
The mayor invited world leaders to visit Hiroshima or Nagasaki to "personally encounter the consequences of using nuclear weapons."
"I want them to understand that the only sure way to protect the lives and property of their people is to eliminate nuclear weapons," he added, according to Kyodo News.
In the shadow of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned that a "new arms race is picking up speed" and nuclear states must commit to "no first use" of their arsenal.
"It is totally unacceptable for states in possession of nuclear weapons to admit the possibility of nuclear war," he said in prepared remarks.
"Take the nuclear option off the table -- for good," he added. "It's time to proliferate peace."
Russia and Belarus were not invited to attend the talks, as concern grows among world leaders that a third nuclear massacre could happen in the midst of the invasion of Ukraine.