NPDI ministerial meeting: Hiroshima must not be forgotten

Renewed desire for nuclear abolition

by Michiko Tanaka, Kyosuke Mizukawa and Junji Akechi, Staff Writers

On April 12 participants in the ministerial meeting of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) visited Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Afterwards they described their feelings about the atomic bombing of the city and its desire for the abolition of nuclear weapons and world peace saying things such as “never again” and “This was an unforgettable day.”

At 8:15 a.m., the time the atomic bombing assailed the everyday lives of the people of Hiroshima, the participants in the NPDI meeting laid sprays of white lilies at the memorial cenotaph and bowed in a somber scene unlike the more festive diplomatic events of the two-day meeting. At the Peace Memorial Museum the visitors saw the charred lunchbox of a junior high school who was killed in the A-bombing while working as a mobilized student and photographs of victims who were severely burned.

At the International Conference Center Hiroshima, Hiroshima resident Keiko Ogura, 76, an atomic bomb survivor, told the ministers of her experiences, noting that the survivors have both physical and mental scars. She also said, “The power of one individual may be like a small drop of water, but together they create an ocean.” Afterwards, Julie Bishop, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, went up to Ms. Ogura, shook hands with her and said she had been inspired. She also praised Ms. Ogura for her courage.

Frans Timmermans, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands said that the experience had had far more impact than any book and that everyone should visit Hiroshima to learn of the threat posed by nuclear weapons.

After her presentation, Ms. Ogura said, “Every time August 6 comes around, I think to myself, ‘Nuclear weapons are still out there.’ I’d like to believe that I got my feelings across.”

During the main meeting as well, the ministers agreed that they had renewed their determination to bring about a world without nuclear weapons. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal Foreign Minister of Germany, said that although the path would be long and difficult, he hoped steady progress would be made.

Ten high school and college students representing seven of the NPDI member states have gathered for the Youth Exchange Program for a World without Nuclear Weapons, sponsored by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They also visited the Peace Memorial Museum on April 12. Jan Rüenauver, 16, of Germany, said the devastation was far worse than he could have imagined from his history lessons and that young people must learn more about the cruelty of nuclear weapons.

(Originally published on April 13, 2014)