Group of Eminent Persons closes meeting in Hiroshima, expresses “dissatisfaction” with current state of nuclear disarmament

by Kyosuke Mizukawa, Staff Writer

On November 28, the first meeting of the Group of Eminent Persons, held to explore ways to advance nuclear disarmament, completed its two-day schedule at a hotel in Minami Ward, Hiroshima. The conference was organized by Japan’s foreign ministry. Takashi Shiraishi, the chair of the conference and the former president of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, summarized the meeting by saying, “There was broad agreement that we are dissatisfied with the current state of nuclear disarmament and we want to get this on a better track.” At the same time, he mentioned that opinions diverged among the participants with regard to the nuclear weapons ban treaty and the policy of nuclear deterrence. He announced that the next meeting of the group will take place in March of next year and said that he would compile the recommendations for actions that should be urgently undertaken.

Fifteen experts from nine countries, which included both nuclear weapon states that call for a phased approach to nuclear disarmament and non-nuclear nations that support the nuclear weapons ban treaty, took part in the closed-door discussions. According to Mr. Shiraishi, who held a press conference after the meeting closed, there were proposals involving a policy of “no first use” of nuclear weapons, which could reduce the role of nuclear arms from a security perspective, and a mechanism that would enable the nuclear powers to participate as observers in Meeting of State Parties prior to signing the agreement.

Reflecting on the discussions, Mr. Shiraishi said, “What’s most important is to seek a shared foundation among nations that have different perspectives. There was a strong desire to come to some agreement.” He added, however, “There are still many issues for both sides to consider so they can present persuasive arguments.”

After the conference closed, Yasuyoshi Komizo, one of the participants of the meeting and the chairperson of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, said, “While our positions are different, we were able to engage in frank discussions.” The participants will now be asked to provide input on the draft of recommendations, which will be produced by the secretariat office, and hold the next round of talks in March of next year.

Akira Kawasaki, a member of the international steering committee for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the non-governmental organization that won the Nobel Peace Prize, told reporters that he hopes the meeting will at least produce a recommendation that recognizes the value of the nuclear weapons ban treaty and will call on the nuclear-armed states to become involved in the treaty on a long-term basis.

(Originally published on November 29, 2017)