TOKYO, Jan 5 – A US warship docked Thursday in Nagasaki to the protests of residents and a boycott by local leaders who said the visit was in poor taste in a city obliterated by a US atomic bomb.
The USS Blue Ridge, which is stationed in Yokosuka near Tokyo, sailed to Nagasaki with a stated goal of promoting friendship between Japan and the United States.
Hundreds of residents including atomic bomb survivors chanted, "We are opposed to the port call!" as the 19,600-ton vessel arrived in the south-western city.
"We don’t want to see the US flag flying at this port and this feeling will not change until the United States takes a policy towards the elimination of nuclear weapons," Osamu Yoshitomi, an official at Nagasaki city, told AFP.
Nagasaki’s mayor and regional governor both refused to take part in the welcome ceremony after unsuccessfully asking Japanese and US authorities to cancel the visit.
The United States stations more than 40,000 troops in Japan under a post-World War II alliance. Under a 1960 agreement, local authorities do not have the right to refuse US warships’ port calls.
It was the seventh visit by a US military vessel to the city of Nagasaki. The US Navy also maintains a major base in the nearby city of Sasebo, part of Nagasaki prefecture.
Nagasaki Mayor Tomohisa Taue regretted the timing of the visit, saying that atomic bomb survivors had been optimistic that newly installed US President Barack Obama would move towards nuclear abolition.
"Nagasaki cannot accept a port call which rouses anxiety in a city hit by an atomic bomb," Taue said in a statement.
Some 70,000 people died on August 9, 1945 when US forces dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Three days earlier, another atomic bomb killed more than 140,000 people in Hiroshima.
Japan surrendered on August 15, ending World War II.