Group of Eminent Persons Conference opens in Hiroshima, explores ways to advance nuclear disarmament

by Kyosuke Mizukawa and Yoshiaki Kido, Staff Writers

The first session of the two-day Group of Eminent Persons Conference opened on November 27 at a hotel in Minami Ward, Hiroshima. The conference has been organized by Japan’s foreign ministry and seeks to explore ways to advance nuclear disarmament. Attending the conference are 15 experts, former diplomats, and other eminent figures from nine nations, including both nuclear-armed states, which advocate a step-by-step approach to nuclear reductions, and non-nuclear states that support the nuclear weapons ban treaty. The participants will summarize short-term, medium-term, and long-term challenges and approaches by the second Preparatory Committee of the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), scheduled for next spring.

Fumio Kishida, the former Japanese foreign minister when the Japanese government decided not to take part in the U.N. talks to establish the nuclear weapons ban treaty, delivered the opening speech. Mr. Kishida is now the chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party Policy Research Council and he proposed holding the Group of Eminent Persons Conference in Hiroshima. He said, “Current conditions in the world will not change without changing the mindset of the nuclear weapon states. I hope that this conference will help create an opportunity for countries that have different stances and ideas to start working together toward a world free of nuclear weapons.”

The conference participants include the chair, Takashi Shiraishi, who is the president of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies; Yasuyoshi Komizo, the chairperson of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation; Masao Tomonaga, the honorary director of the Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Genbaku Hospital; and Linton Brooks, the former administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration within the U.S. Department of Energy. Shen Dingli, a professor at Fudan University in China, did not attend the meeting.

The session was closed to the public. According to the foreign ministry, the participants who favor the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was established at the United Nations in July of this year, expressed high praise for the process that was taken to create the treaty, including the emphasis on the inhumane consequences of the use of nuclear weapons. They argued strongly that the treaty should be made use of in order to promote nuclear disarmament. Other participants, however, pointed to tensions in the security environment involving nuclear issues related to North Korea and Iran, saying that these concerns pose an obstacle to advancing nuclear disarmament. The discussions also considered the level of nuclear reductions that will enable the departure from the policy of nuclear deterrence.

Prior to the start of the session, the participants visited the Peace Memorial Park located in Naka Ward. Mr. Shiraishi and Mr. Brooks laid a wreath at the Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims on behalf of all the participants. They then moved to the Peace Memorial Museum and listened to an A-bomb account in English by Keiko Ogura, 80, an A-bomb survivor and resident of Naka Ward, who described the devastation of the city in the aftermath of the atomic bombing and the desire of Hiroshima citizens for nuclear abolition. After this, the participants toured the museum.

(Originally published on November 28, 2017)