Hiroshima’s Prime Minister Kishida will be watched carefully—ICAN anticipates his leadership; survivors want him to make his presence felt

by Miho Kuwajima, Kyosuke Mizukawa, and Kana Kobayashi, Staff Writers

As soon as Fumio Kishida was elected to serve as Japan’s prime minister on October 4, numerous demands were made by A-bomb survivors and anti-nuclear activists. Will Japan continue to turn its back on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), even as the country steadfastly maintains its policy of dependence on the U.S. nuclear umbrella? That is a question that must be asked. Since his support base is located in Hiroshima, the new prime minister’s future actions related to such issues will be watched carefully here.

Beatrice Fihn, 38, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN; with headquarters in Switzerland), an organization that was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, sent an email message to Mr. Kishida’s office. In an expression of her congratulations, she wrote, “We look forward to your leadership.”

In the note, Ms. Fihn commended Mr. Kishida for his commitment to nuclear disarmament and his support of the joint statement on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations General Assembly First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) in 2013, at a time when he served as Japan’s foreign minister. The joint statement noted the inhumanity of nuclear weapons and warned that the weapons should never be used again. Encouraging him to participate in the First Meeting of States Parties of the TPNW, scheduled for March of next year, the message added, “I hope you and I have the opportunity to meet in person.” She also encouraged Mr. Kishida to continue to deepen his engagement with civic groups in Japan and to strengthen cooperation with A-bomb survivors.

For their part, A-bomb survivors called on Mr. Kishida to participate in the First Meeting of States Parties of the TPNW, which will be held in Vienna, Austria, as well as to sign and ratify the TPNW.

“I want him to participate in the meeting himself and listen to what the treaty’s supporter nations have to say. I want him to take such action even if other members of the government object, making his presence felt in the world,” said Toshiyuki Mimaki, 79, acting chair of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hiroshima Hidankyo), chaired by Sunao Tsuboi. Kunihiko Sakuma, 76, chair of the other Hiroshima Hidankyo, said about the new prime minister, “He must implement policies that focus on survivors and adhere to the three non-nuclear principles.”

Terumi Tanaka, 89, co-chair of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations and a resident of Niiza City in Saitama Prefecture, is a survivor of the Nagasaki atomic bombing. “Mr. Kishida served as foreign minister in the Abe administration at a time when the government decided it would not join the TPNW negotiations in 2017,” said Mr. Tanaka. “He showed no signs of being a lawmaker from Hiroshima. He must now conduct diplomacy that will cause people to praise him as a politician with great understanding of nuclear issues.”

(Originally published on October 5, 2021)