Delivering a message on nuclear disarmament: NPDI ministerial meeting opens in Hiroshima

by Michiko Tanaka and Jumpei Fujimura, Staff Writers

The ministerial meeting of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), a group comprising 12 non-nuclear nations, got underway in Hiroshima on April 11. This is the first time the event is being held in Japan. The two-day meeting will look at the reality of the devastation brought about by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the first time a nuclear weapon was used against human beings, and will deliver a political message on disarmament. On the first day of the meeting, local citizens had opportunities to directly convey their desire for the abolition of nuclear weapons to the representatives of member states during an informal discussion session with the foreign ministers and during a symposium.

Foreign ministers and other officials from seven of the 12 member states are attending the meeting, the highest number ever. Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security, and two other guests are also participating. Today the foreign ministers of Japan, Australia and the Netherlands engaged in informal discussions with a group of nine people, including atomic bomb survivors and high school students, at a venue in the city’s Minami Ward.

At the start of the session, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui made brief remarks in which he said, “I would like you to listen to each other’s opinions and build a global consensus on the abolition of nuclear weapons.” The discussion that followed was off the record.

Sunao Tsuboi, 88, chair of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations, said he referred to his own experiences as an atomic bomb survivor and emphasized the value of human life. After the discussion session, Mr. Tsuboi held a press conference at which he stated, “If there’s a nuclear war, the human race will be exterminated. I think I was able to get this across to some extent.”

At the symposium, which was held in Naka Ward prior to the informal discussion session, eight panelists, including Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui, Hiroshima Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki and representatives of other nations, discussed the inhumanity of nuclear weapons and the path to their abolition. A two-day Youth Exchange Program for a World without Nuclear Weapons is being held in conjunction with the ministerial meeting. Ten young people representing seven of the NPDI member states will get together in Hiroshima and consider nuclear issues.

After the first day’s events, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who represents Hiroshima District No. 1, told the press corps, “We got off to a good start. I’d like to put together a Hiroshima Declaration that incorporates a strong message aimed at bringing about a world without nuclear weapons.”

On April 12 the foreign ministers are scheduled to visit the Peace Memorial Museum in Naka Ward and listen to the accounts of atomic bomb survivors followed by the main meeting at a venue in Minami Ward.

(Originally published on April 12, 2014)