Ahead of NPT Review Conference, Foreign Ministry holds first gathering of experts and government officials to achieve progress in nuclear disarmament

by Yo Kono, Staff Writer

On March 6, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched a public-private sector gathering of experts and government officials for discussing a path toward nuclear disarmament, with its inaugural meeting held at a Tokyo hotel. The gathering was attended by both nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear weapon states. Representatives from the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki also participated. The members discussed how to achieve success at the upcoming Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), held in the spring. The body is the successor to the Group of Eminent Persons, in which over the last two years experts discussed ways to advance the issue of nuclear disarmament.

The gathering was attended by 18 people, consisting of diplomatic officials from nine countries, including Japan, the United States, Russia, and Malaysia, as well as researchers from international organizations and universities. Also in attendance was Yasuyoshi Komizo, former chairperson of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, who had been a member of the Group of Eminent Persons Conference, as well as Masao Tomonaga, honorary director of the Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Genbaku Hospital.

At the start of the meeting, Asako Omi, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for foreign affairs, addressed the group. “Given that there exists a divergence of views among states on nuclear disarmament, dialogue and bridge-building are essential to promote nuclear disarmament,” said Ms. Omi. “Japan is determined to continue its tenacious efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons.”

Closed-door sessions involved deliberation of three themes: transparency, nuclear-risk reduction, and nuclear-disarmament/non-proliferation education. According to Japan’s Foreign Ministry, for youth education some participants suggested that having people from throughout the world visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki would be crucial for understanding the reality of the atomic bombings.

The Foreign Ministry plans to summarize the matters discussed at the gathering and utilize the information at the NPT Review Conference when introducing Japan’s efforts to achieve elimination of nuclear weapons. The ministry plans to continue holding the public-private sector gatherings even after conclusion of the Review Conference.

The Group of Eminent Persons Conference was an idea proposed by then foreign minister Fumio Kishida, who is now chairperson of the Policy Research Council of the Liberal Democratic Party representing Hiroshima’s electoral district No. 1. The conference’s first meeting was held in Hiroshima’s Minami Ward in November 2017. After two years of discussions, the conference reported its conclusions in October 2019.

(Originally published on March 7, 2020)