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28 July - Ban Ki-moon is set to become the first United Nations Secretary-General to attend the Peace Memorial Ceremony on the anniversary of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima when he visits the southern Japanese city next week.

Mr. Ban is also scheduled to visit Nagasaki, which was bombed on 9 August 1945, three days after Hiroshima was attacked.

More than 200,000 people died of nuclear radiation, shock waves from the blasts and thermal radiation. Additionally, over 400,000 more people have died – and are continuing to die – since the end of World War II from the impacts of the two bombs.

In both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Secretary-General will also visit memorials to Korean atomic bomb victims.

He hopes that his visit to the cities raise awareness of “the urgent need to achieve global nuclear disarmament,” UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters today in New York.

“Let us be clear: the only guarantee of safety, and the only sure protection against the use of such weapons, is their elimination,” Mr. Ban said in a message yesterday to the Hiroshima Conference for the Total Abolition of Nuclear Weapons by 2020.

“Nuclear disarmament is often dismissed as a dream, when the real fantasies are the claims that nuclear weapons guarantee security or increase a country's status and prestige,” he noted.

“The more often countries make such claims, the more likely it will be that others will adopt the same approach. The result will be insecurity for all.”

Mr. Ban's first stop in Japan will be the capital, Tokyo, where he will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada.

While in the country, he is also slated to meet with UN Goodwill Ambassadors, business leaders, academics and students.