Foreign minister Kishida, a Hiroshima native, makes presence felt at NPDI meeting

by Jumpei Fujimura, Staff Writer

The gathering of foreign ministers of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) closed in Hiroshima on April 12. Fumio Kishida, the foreign minister of the host nation who was elected from district one in Hiroshima, which includes the A-bomb hypocenter, exerted a strong presence as a native of the city and sparked discussion on a path toward a world without nuclear weapons. At the same time, he stuck to the Japanese government line of supporting “realistic measures” to advance nuclear disarmament, demonstrating that there are limits to the actions of a cabinet member.

Before the main meeting on April 12, the foreign ministers paid a visit to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Mr. Kishida received a paper crane in front of the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims and told Albert del Rosario, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, who was standing beside him, that the paper crane was made by Sadako Sasaki. Inside Peace Memorial Museum, he stood before a panoramic model which depicts the destruction of the atomic bombing and offered additional information on the location of the hypocenter. As host, he made efforts intended to enrich the understanding of the participants.

On the significance of holding the ministerial meeting in Hiroshima, Mr. Kishida stressed that the foreign ministers would be able to learn firsthand about the reality of the atomic bombing and deliver a strong message politically. During the main meeting, the foreign ministers held an impassioned discussion, saying that they were deeply impressed by their experience in Hiroshima and had renewed their vow to realize a world without nuclear weapons.

Mr. Kishida made careful preparations before the NPDI gathering. He delivered a speech in Nagasaki in January, describing Japan’s systematic approach to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. According to an official of the Foreign Ministry, the text of the “Hiroshima Declaration” was based on the minister’s Nagasaki address, and includes the minister’s views on this issue.

However, in his speech in Nagasaki, Mr. Kishida also stated that the use of nuclear weapons should be limited to extreme circumstances. This remark triggered an outpouring of criticism from people in the A-bombed cities, who viewed this comment as the minister’s approval for the limited use of nuclear arms, though it was cited as a measure to reduce their role. With this criticism in mind, the Hiroshima Declaration used more indefinite language: “We urge the nuclear weapons states...to start reducing the role of nuclear weapons.”

Mr. Kishida skillfully walked a tightrope between the desires of Hiroshima citizens and the stance of the Japanese government. But he did not respond to calls for outlawing nuclear weapons and making efforts to start negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention, which were raised during a session on April 11 where views were exchanged with A-bomb survivors and other members of the public.

As a member of the government which remains dependent on the U.S. nuclear umbrella, Mr. Kishida could only manage to say that he hopes to unite nations which hold different attitudes toward nuclear disarmament through awareness of the inhumanity of nuclear weapons.

(Originally published on April 13, 2014)