Editorial: Expectations for the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Hiroshima

The two-day G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting opens in Hiroshima on April 10. This is the first meeting of its kind to be held in the A-bombed city, and the first of a series of ministerial meetings that will take place prior to May’s Group of Seven (G7) summit (Ise Shima summit). In these chaotic times, with the world struggling to address terrorism, the refugee crisis, and North Korea’s nuclear development ambitions, the fact that the meeting of foreign ministers is being held in a city destroyed by an atomic bomb holds great significance.

At the meeting, the “Hiroshima Declaration” will be released to convey strong determination for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The main points of the declaration have already been determined. The declaration will urge all nuclear weapon states, including China, to increase the transparency of their nuclear arsenals and encourage world leaders and young people to visit the A-bombed cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Touching the immense devastation and human suffering wrought by the atomic bomb is surely a valuable experience for those responsible for state diplomacy. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany, who will take part in the meeting, expressed the importance of understanding the consequences of the atomic bombing in his written interview with the Chugoku Shimbun.

Referring to the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) Ministerial Meeting held in Hiroshima in 2014, Mr. Steinmeier said in the written interview that he was “deeply moved” by his visit to the Peace Memorial Museum and his conversation with an A-bomb survivor. He stressed that Hiroshima “enjoins us to continue to work with the greatest possible resolve towards ‘Global Zero.’”

It is hoped that U.S. President Barack Obama will also actively contribute to this resolve. He himself has been an advocate for “a world without nuclear weapons” and has made several remarks that reflect his deep consideration for the two A-bombed cities. Risking a potential backlash in the United States, where popular opinion still justifies the atomic bombings of Japan, the Obama administration chose to dispatch a sitting Secretary of State, John Kerry, to Hiroshima for the first time. This decision deserves praise.

The agenda for the foreign ministers’ meeting extends beyond nuclear issues. A joint communique will be released to demonstrate a shared recognition on a wide range of themes, including counterterrorism measures. A declaration concerning maritime security will also be released, with China in mind. China is continuing to build a military presence in the South China Sea.

Repeated terrorist attacks by the extremist group the Islamic State (ISIL) in various European nations must not be overlooked. With the implementation of its new security laws, there is the rising possibility that Japan, an ally of the United States, could become the target of terrorist attacks. Looking ahead to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, when greater numbers of people will visit this country, Japan must take prompt steps to protect itself.

About the declaration on maritime security, although this statement will express “serious concerns” over an aggressive change in current conditions, it is expected to avoid directly mentioning China by name. This is due to the difference in views on China between European nations and Japan and the United States. Nonetheless, Japan, which is the only Asian country participating in the G7 summit, has a significant role to play in helping to stabilize the region. It is hoped that the meeting of foreign ministers will also produce strong solidarity among the G7 nations in their attempt to keep China’s movements in check.

Most importantly, holding this meeting in the A-bombed city holds great significance. Although some Hiroshima residents are bewildered by the high security and the unprecedented state of high alert, some are welcoming and entertaining the huge influx of international travelers at the information centers of JR Hiroshima Station and various sightseeing spots. As citizens of Hiroshima, an international city of peace and culture, we should be proud of the people involved in these activities.

The foreign ministers who responded to the Chugoku Shimbun’s written interviews hold high hopes for the young people who will be the leaders of rising generations. The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy mentioned in her written interview that now is the time for the youth of Hiroshima to leave their legacy, and the Canadian Foreign Minister mentioned that contributions to peace in one’s own community can help build peace and security elsewhere.

How will Hiroshima continue to use its “magnetism” as the A-bombed city, which has drawn the foreign ministers to a meeting of peace building? As citizens of Hiroshima, we should take this opportunity to reflect on this key question.

(Originally published on April 10, 2016)