Politics & Security
Message from Hiroshima to G7 Leaders: We Must All Strive for a World without Nuclear Weapons
Japan's Prime Minister hopes a summit in his home city Hiroshima will lead the world away from the path towards destruction.
The skeletal ruins of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial serve as a permanent reminder of the devastation wrought when the first atomic bomb exploded above the city on August 6, 1945.
Through the efforts of local people, the building's remains have been preserved and show how it looked immediately after the blast. The structure is known locally as the Genbaku Dome ("Genbaku" means atomic bomb in Japanese.)
It is said that an estimated 140,000 people died within a few months of the explosion.
The Dome will serve as the backdrop to a historic event in May 2023, when the G7 leaders gather in Hiroshima for a summit hosted by the Japanese Prime Minister, KISHIDA Fumio, who is from the city.
Compared to the atomic bomb which hit Hiroshima in 1945, the nuclear missiles held in silos and submarines today are far more powerful weapons. And there are fears, following Russia's aggression against Ukraine, that threats to use them are real.
Ukraine will be one of the top items on the agenda during the gathering of the G7 leaders in May. The summit will also be an opportunity for Prime Minister Kishida to reinforce his urgent message that nuclear weapons must never be used again.
JAPAN Forward went to Hiroshima to find out more about its history and consider the lessons it can teach the world.
A Solemn Site
Upon entering the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on February 24, there was a hushed and solemn atmosphere. This area of the city was once known as Nakajima-cho, a bustling hub of businesses, places of entertainment and homes. Now it is given over to museums, memorials and a pond.
Tourists from Japan and other countries quietly approached the monuments. Many people brought their families. Children watched their parents bow respectfully in memory of the bomb victims. Speaking to the visitors, most explained that they felt it was important to come here in person in order to fully appreciate the scale of the loss.
"Just learning about such things from a screen is not the same. But, coming here, and seeing the remains of the devastation, has a huge impact," said a tourist from the Netherlands. He continued, "For this reason, I think it's significant that the G7 summit is taking place in Hiroshima this year."
In 2019, the museum registered 1.75 million visitors, the highest number in its history. Following the relaxation of COVID-19 entry restrictions in January 2023, foreign visitors have started to return. Many sign the guest book, with some mentioning the war in Ukraine.
In front of the museum, a flame symbolizing peace burns in commemoration of the victims. President Barack Obama stood beside it when he became the first American incumbent president to visit the site in 2016.
He urged the world to "choose a future where Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not considered the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening."
Commitment to Disarmament
This backdrop will once again be seen by the world when President Joe Biden comes here in May 2023, along with the other G7 leaders from France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Canada and the European Union. Japan hosts the summit because this year it holds the rotating presidency of the group.
Prime Minister Kishida is from Hiroshima and echoes his constituents as he expresses Japan's unwavering commitment to disarmament and non-proliferation. It is his intention to lead the discussion on creating a path toward a world without nuclear weapons.
Last August, he attended the NPT Review Conference, and proposed the "Hiroshima Action Plan" as the first step toward a realistic roadmap which would take us from the "reality" of the harsh security environment to the "ideal" of a world without nuclear weapons. Under his leadership, Japan has advanced various efforts based on that plan, looking ahead to the G7 Hiroshima Summit.
"As the only country to have suffered atomic bombings, and as the Prime Minister from Hiroshima," Prime Minister Kishida said in his speech at the Johns Hopkins University in January 2023, "I will put forward our pledge to the world at the G7 Hiroshima Summit that the scourge of nuclear weapons must never be allowed to happen again."
New Era for Japanese Diplomacy
The G7 summit also offers Japan an opportunity to share its values of tolerance, diversity and inclusiveness.
As Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa explained in a speech in February 2023, Japan's diplomacy is rooted in its history and experience.
The foreign minister appealed to other countries:
"Japanese diplomacy, [...] respects the diversity of society, culture, and history of the other countries, and attaches importance to inclusiveness through dialogue. In dialogue, we seek to find common challenges and provide support that is truly needed, while respecting the positions of other countries."
Foreign Minister Hayashi concluded, pointing towards a new era of diplomacy, saying: "We believe that this kind of steady diplomacy will further strengthen the free and open international order based on the rule of law."
As the G7 Hiroshima Summit draws near, there is increasing anticipation that the gathering will lead to fruitful results, and that Japan can convey a powerful message of hope during a difficult time for the world.
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This article is published in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.
Author: Arielle Busetto
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