Foreign minister working to hold disarmament conference in Hiroshima

by Kohei Okata, Takashi Takekawa and Yumi Kanazaki, Staff Writers

On February 10, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba announced that he is making efforts to hold an international conference on nuclear disarmament in Hiroshima. The foreign ministerial-level meeting is a gathering of the Non-proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), a body comprised of 10 non-nuclear weapon states, including Japan. Seen as an “alternative” to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference slated for 2015, which the City of Hiroshima is hoping to host, the NPDI conference is planned for the spring of 2014.

Spearheaded by Japan and Australia, NPDI was launched in September 2010 to shore up efforts to realize the agreement reached at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. That agreement consists of an action plan of 64 items with the aim of creating “a world without nuclear weapons.” The organization has thus far held three foreign minister-level meetings. According to the Foreign Ministry of Japan, NPDI has worked to exert influence through concrete and constructive proposals, such as proposing “a draft of the common report form for nuclear weapons,” including the number of nuclear warheads, to the nuclear weapon states.

The spring of 2014, with the review conference looming the following year, will be an active season for disarmament diplomacy. At the same time, the nuclear weapons states are expected to report their progress with regard to disarmament at preliminary meetings for the review conference, scheduled to take place in New York in 2015. NPDI is poised to articulate concrete steps for the path toward nuclear disarmament as well as other nuclear issues. By holding its conference in the A-bombed city of Hiroshima, the organization seeks to gain a tail wind for discussions involving the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, with respect to hosting the review conference in Hiroshima, Foreign Ministry officials have felt from the start that holding such a gathering here would be difficult since delegates from about 190 nations would need to stay in the city for almost a month.

Tetsuo Saito, a lawmaker of the New Komeito party representing the Hiroshima area, raised the subject of Hiroshima hosting the review conference in a question posed to Mr. Gemba at a House of Representatives Budget Committee session. The foreign minister replied: “This wouldn’t be easy, so I’m now thinking of an alternative.”

The City of Hiroshima has allocated 480,000 yen for expenses involving bids on international conferences in its draft budget for 2012. These expenses include business trips for discussions with Foreign Ministry officials, with the highest aim that of hosting the review conference in the city. A senior city official commented: “We have not heard anything directly from the Foreign Ministry at this point. The city has not changed its desire to bring the review conference to Hiroshima.”

(Originally published on February 11, 2012)