Tokyo: Japan's Nagasaki city on Sunday marked the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb with a ceremony at which officials defended the pacifist constitution amid efforts by the government to empower the military.
The ceremony at the Peace Park was attended by local and national officials, delegations from 76 countries and "hibakusha", the name given to survivors of the atomic attacks by the US on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
The ceremony started at 11.02 a.m., the time when a US Army Air Corps plane dropped an atomic bomb codenamed "Fat Man" on the city.
Participants observed a minute of silence followed by the traditional ringing of the Peace Bell in honour of the victims.
Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue delivered an address, calling on the Japanese government and the international community to work to stop nuclear proliferation.
He also criticised the reinterpretation of the constitution being pushed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
"Many people ask if Japan's pacifist principle, which prevents us from getting involved in any war, is being eroded by this initiative," the mayor said, referring to Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.
"We should never abandon this principle, on which Japan's current prosperity has been built. We cannot forget the tragic memories left by the war," Taue said in his "Declaration for Peace."
Abe and his government have been criticised by the opposition and a growing segment of the public over their reinterpretation of Article 9, the pacifist article in the constitution.
The prime minister's reforms will allow the Japan Self-Defense Forces for the first time in 68 years to operate abroad and defend allies in case of an attack.
Pope Francis, on his part, marked the atomic bombing anniversary on Sunday by calling for an end to war and the use of nuclear weapons.
The US carried out the first atomic bombing in history on August 6, 1945, destroying the city of Hiroshima and dropping a second bomb on Nagasaki three days later.
The atomic bombings forced Japan to surrender on August 15, 1945, ending World War II.