Japan, Hiroshima hail US-Russia new arms control treaty

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The Japanese government and Hiroshima city Thursday commended US legislative approval of a new arms control treaty with Russia.

Japan, the only nation ever to have come under nuclear attack, called the move "important progress" in disarmament efforts by Washington and Moscow.

The mayor of Hiroshima, which was destroyed by the world's first atomic bombing in 1945, separately said "a world without nuclear weapons" had come "a step closer", as sought by US President Barack Obama.

The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between the US and Russia stipulates reductions in nuclear warheads and their means of delivery. It was ratified by the US Senate, in a major victory for Obama.

"Japan strongly hopes that the latest development will lead to advancing global nuclear disarmament" in the US, Russia and other nations with nuclear weapons, Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said in a statement.

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba also welcomed the vote and called on the US and Russia to strive to reduce weapons by more than promised under the treaty.

The United States dropped an atomic bomb over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and an estimated 140,000 people died instantly in the city or succumbed to burns and radiation sickness by the end of the year.

More than 70,000 people perished as a result of the second US atomic bombing of the port of Nagasaki three days later. The bombings prompted Japan to surrender, ending World War II.

Maehara and Akiba also pressed Russia to swiftly ratify the new START, and urged other nuclear powers and nations with nuclear ambitions to take similar actions.

Maehara also called on Washington to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

© 2010 AFP

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