Interviews & Articles

"We can still achieve a world without nuclear weapons"

April 10, 2016
The city of Hiroshima sits in a beautiful location, surrounded by sea and mountains. It has a rich culture and history, and has been a symbol of peace and hope since its recovery from the atomic bombing in 1945. It is also my hometown, and so the issue of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation has always had a special resonance for myself and others living here.

Indeed, just two weeks ago, I listened to young people gathered in the city to talk about how they might help make progress in achieving their wish for a world without nuclear weapons. ''I would like to take over the baton of peace from atomic bomb survivors,'' one young person told me. ''I sincerely ask world leaders to make efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons,'' another said, hopefully.

This weekend, keeping the aspirations of those young people deep in my heart, I will host a meeting gathering G7 foreign ministers to Hiroshima for the first time in history, determined to discuss the issue thoroughly.

As Japan's foreign minister, and hailing from Hiroshima, I feel a great sense of urgency. Sadly, since last year's Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference, the rift between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states has grown deeper. The momentum toward a world free of nuclear weapons has withered.

That is the reality facing us as we gather this week in Hiroshima for the foreign minister's meeting, where security -- including nuclear issues -- will be a key focus of our discussions.

North Korea's nuclear test in January, and ballistic missile launches in February and March, pose a serious threat not only to the region, but also to the international community. As a forum that comprises both nuclear and non-nuclear states, the G7 is well-positioned to send a strong message from Hiroshima to help revitalize international momentum on this issue and relaunch the quest for a world free of nuclear weapons. As chair, I will do what I can to realize this vision, aiming at jointly announcing the Hiroshima Declaration at the G7.

On April 11, all of the G7 foreign ministers will visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and lay a wreath at the Memorial Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Victims. I believe that by inviting world leaders to see with their own eyes the reality of the atomic bombings, we will take an important step, one that can help gather global momentum for a world without nuclear weapons.

But we do also face other pressing issues that we must tackle. Terrorist attacks, such as the tragedy that took place in Brussels last month, are occurring across the world. The threat posed by terrorism and violent extremism has been intensifying and spreading across Europe and also parts of Asia. This demands an international response. Japan, for its part, resolutely condemns acts of terrorism, which claim innocent citizens and poses a serious threat to the universal values of peace and prosperity.

Meanwhile, the refugee crisis is growing more acute with each passing month. We need to tackle the underlying causes of both terrorism and the refugee crisis in the medium to long term if we are to build a tolerant and stable society that is resilient against violent extremism.

The G7 is based on key, shared fundamental values, including a commitment to maintain international order. It therefore makes sense for the organization to take a lead in addressing these urgent global challenges. I hope my counterparts, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, will be able to hold some much-needed and frank discussions on these security challenges when we meet in Hiroshima.

Clearly, though, meeting these threats will also require practical action, and G7 countries will need to work together based on their individual strengths. Japan, for example, will be well-placed to contribute to these efforts by combining short-term humanitarian support with mid- to long-term development cooperation.

In addition to the North Korea issue, as this is the first G7 meeting in Asia in eight years, we will discuss and formulate a firm response on another issue important to Asia today: maritime security. Attempts to change the status quo through force, as seen in areas including the South China Sea, are challenges to an international order based on the rule of law. I therefore hope we can develop a message based on a shared view among the G7 members on the importance of ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight, while refraining from unilateral actions, and maintaining the stability of sea lanes through counter-piracy and other measures.

Seven decades after it was struck by an atom bomb, Hiroshima is a city of peace and hope. I am proud to welcome my G7 counterparts to Hiroshima, and believe their visit will help inspire us all to deliver a shared message of peace, prosperity and hope for the future of the world.

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