Japanese Prime Minister Kishida is keen to convey the realities of the atomic bombings at next year’s G-7 summit in Hiroshima

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August 4, 2022

TOKYO – As the world faces a growing nuclear threat exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, among other factors, this series explores the strategy and outlook for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s nuclear disarmament diplomacy. This is the final installment in a three-part series.

When US President Joe Biden rose from his seat after summit talks with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the State Guest House in Moto-Akasaka, Tokyo on May 23, Kishida walked over to the US leader 79 and said, “With Russia threatening to use nuclear weapons, it would be historically significant for us to gather in Hiroshima.

By then, Tokyo had already leveraged working talks to raise with Washington the possibility of holding next year’s Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima. Kishida, however, insisted on speaking directly to Biden about the idea, in his own words.

A smiling Biden expressed his support saying he thought it was a good idea.

Kishida then started laying the groundwork to get similar positive feedback from other G7 member countries regarding the idea. The outgoing leaders of France and Britain – two nuclear powers – have never visited Hiroshima before, and officials from both countries were initially wary of the idea. The Japanese side sought to assuage its fears, saying the idea was not meant to criticize nuclear nations.

File photo of the Yomiuri Shimbun
Then U.S. President Barack Obama hugs atomic bomb survivor Shigeaki Mori at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in the city of Hiroshima May 27, 2016.

Kishida, 65, had already seen success when then-US President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima in May 2016. Obama laid a wreath at the cenotaph commemorating the victims of the atomic bombing at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park — the first sitting U.S. leader to do so. In a later speech, he expressed his determination to abolish nuclear weapons, saying: “We have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we need to do differently to reduce this suffering again. . He also exchanged words with a number of atomic bomb survivors and even kissed one of them.

The previous year, then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told then-Foreign Minister Kishida that the 2016 G7 summit would be held in Ise-Shima, Mie Prefecture. Kishida spoke to then-Deputy Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki, 69, saying, “I want you to find a way to get Obama to Hiroshima.”

Saiki asked Caroline Kennedy – who, as US Ambassador to Japan, had established a close relationship with Kishida – for help in the matter. Kennedy, 64, was open to Saiki’s request and said she would help implement the plan. While Kennedy pushed Kishida’s idea through the halls of American power, Kishida worked to build a favorable reception for his idea by telling Washington behind the scenes that he had no intention of asking for an apology.

Kishida’s hard work paid off when a meeting of G7 foreign ministers took place in Hiroshima in April 2016. Kishida and his counterparts from other G7 countries, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, 78, visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

After a tour of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which features artifacts that belonged to atomic bomb victims and other related exhibits, Kerry said it was “heartbreaking.” Later, he promised to urge Obama to pay a visit.

Within the US government, however, some officials, including then-national security adviser Susan Rice, 57, were suspicious of Obama’s trip to the museum. Some people in the United States believe that the atomic bombings accelerated the end of World War II and saved many lives.

Still, Kishida was extremely enthusiastic about Obama experiencing a trip to the facility, saying, “Visiting the museum is essential to conveying the realities of atomic bombing and radiation exposure. ” When Obama paid his historic visit to Hiroshima, Kishida conversed with him in English, offering explanations about the museum and the atomic bomb dome, among other things.

In December 2016, Abe and Obama visited Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Some 70 years after the end of World War II, it felt like an important chapter had closed in the turbulent history of Japan and the United States.

The G7 summit in May will mark the pinnacle of Kishida’s atomic diplomacy. The Prime Minister hopes that all the G7 leaders will visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park together and visit the museum.

At the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), held in New York on Monday, Kishida announced Japan’s intention to establish a United Nations fund of 10 million dollars to allow the youth of the world to visit Hiroshima. and Nagasaki.

During the last session of the G7 summit held in Elmau, Germany, on June 28, Kishida spoke passionately, saying: “Next year, we will demonstrate the G7’s determination to reject the threats use of nuclear weapons and any attempt to subvert the international order. .”

Russia has suggested using nuclear weapons in its ongoing military aggression in Ukraine. Public opinion in the United States and European countries suggests growing fears that nuclear weapons will be used at some point in the future. It seems that the momentum towards nuclear disarmament has leveled off. China is increasing its nuclear buildup to keep pace with the United States and Russia.

Kishida is aware that his pleas come in difficult times. Nevertheless, he intends to share with the other leaders of the G7 the feelings of the inhabitants of the bombed areas and his conviction of the need for nuclear disarmament.

“Rather than just giving up because it won’t produce results, I will give it my all to produce results,” Kishida reportedly told those close to him recently.

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