NEW YORK, July 29 — U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said Wednesday he hopes to utilize his upcoming visits to Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombings of the Japanese cities to push forward his goal of realizing a world free of nuclear weapons.
"During my visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I will try to send a strong and very important message to the world that the nuclear threat is real, and that we must do everything we can (to) build on the current global momentum towards a nuclear weapon-free world," the UN chief told reporters ahead of his trip to Japan that begins next Tuesday and includes stops in the two cities.
''I have chosen two cities as the venue to send out this message,'' he said. ''These cities stand as significant reminders of the need to achieve a nuclear weapon-free world.''
He is also scheduled to meet with Japanese atomic bomb survivors, called hibakusha, and will pay visits to memorials dedicated to Korean atomic bomb survivors as well.
As a former foreign minister of his native South Korea and a key negotiator in dealing with efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, he said he has always had concerns about nuclear matters and that since taking up his current post he feels an even greater sense of responsibility.
Stressing that it has been 65 years since the first atomic devises were dropped, he stood behind his belief that it was the international community's political and moral responsibility to realize the goal of ending proliferation.
On Aug. 6, Ban will become the first U.N. secretary general ever to participate in the commemoration to be held in Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park. He will also visit Nagasaki a day earlier as it was the second city to be bombed on Aug. 9, 1945.
While in the two cities, Ban said, he intends to express his ''sincere sympathy'' with the atomic bomb victims as well as his ''firm commitment'' to work with political leaders from around the world to realize the goal of ridding the world of the destructive weapons — one of his top priority agenda items for 2010.
Hailing a ''successful'' 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference held in New York in May, Ban also cited the leadership role taken by politicians such as U.S. President Barack Obama.
''I would also like to draw attention to the growing political momentum for the creation of a legal framework to accomplish a total elimination of nuclear weapons,'' he said.
Ban highlighted the need to ''act in a time frame so that at least some hibakusha will live to see the end of all nuclear weapons.''
The State Department said Wednesday that U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos will attend the Aug. 6 annual ceremony in Hiroshima, becoming the first U.S. government representative to be sent to the event.
That decision, Ban said, ''seems to demonstrate their political commitment to work together with the United Nations and international community to realize a world without nuclear weapons.''
The city of Hiroshima has asked nuclear-weapon states to send representatives to the annual ceremony since 1988.
Before making the symbolic visit to the atomic-bombed cities, Ban will begin his trip in Tokyo, where he will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, among other officials.
In addition to tackling a comprehensive set of issues ranging from climate change to counterterrorism, and peace building in Africa to human security, Ban said he will also address regional issues, including the situation on the Korean Peninsula, in his bilateral meetings.
This will be Ban's fourth visit to Japan during his tenure so far. (PNA/Kyodo)