Hiroshima as host of G7 summit: In talk with Hiroshima mayor and local leaders, Prime Minister Kishida shows willingness to arrange meeting between G7 leaders, A-bomb survivors

by Junya Kuchimoto and Koji Higuchi, Staff Writers

On June 9, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (representing Hiroshima Prefecture’s District No. 1) expressed willingness to make arrangements for a face-to-face meeting between A-bomb survivors and the G7 leaders who will visit Hiroshima to attend the 2023 summit meeting of the G7 (attended by the Group of Seven industrialized nations). Mr. Kishida was responding to a request from local leaders in Hiroshima who he met in Tokyo at his official residence, including Hiroshima City Mayor Kazumi Matsui. If the meeting comes to fruition, it would mark the first opportunity for the leaders of the United States, Britain, and France, all nuclear-armed nations, to meet with A-bomb survivors in what would make a historic summit.

Mr. Matsui, Hiroshima Prefectural Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki, and Hiroshima Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairperson Koji Ikeda called on Mr. Kishida to provide the opportunity for G7 leaders to meet with A-bomb survivors as well as to tour the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, located in the city’s Naka Ward. Mr. Kishida replied he would consider the idea, but stated that coordination with the participating nations would be necessary.

Whether Mr. Kishida, who made the decision to hold the G7 summit in the A-bombed city of Hiroshima for the first time in the history of the summit, can obtain consensus from the U.S., U.K., and France leaders about the request from the local politicians in Hiroshima will present the opportunity for him to display his diplomatic acumen. The possibility exists that Mr. Kishida will request understanding for the idea at this year’s G7 summit, to be held in Germany at the end of June.

Direct interaction between the head of state of a nuclear nation and A-bomb survivors took place in Hiroshima in May 2016, when then-U.S. President Barack Obama met with A-bomb survivor representatives. In front of the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Mr. Obama exchanged greetings with the late Sunao Tsuboi, at the time chairperson of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hiroshima Hidankyo), and engaged in an embrace with Shigeaki Mori, 85, an A-bomb survivor and local historian. The U.S. president did not have the opportunity, however, to listen firsthand to the survivor’s recounting of their atomic bombing experiences. At the time, Shinzo Abe served as Japan’s prime minister, and Mr. Kishida joined in welcoming Mr. Obama to Hiroshima as the nation’s minister of foreign affairs.

When he met with Prime Minister Kishida at the U.S.-Japan summit in May, current U.S. President Joe Biden agreed with the idea of Hiroshima hosting the G7 summit next year. Mr. Biden, who served as vice president in the Obama administration, is thought to share elements of Mr. Obama’s political philosophy, such as the emphasis on trying to achieve a world without nuclear weapons. U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel and Mr. Kishida together visited Peace Memorial Park, in the city’s Naka Ward, earlier in the spring of this year.

During the meeting with local leaders in Hiroshima at the prime minister’s official residence, Mr. Kishida spoke of his reaffirmed sense of the importance of holding the summit in Hiroshima, stressing that it was important to consider, discuss, and identify concrete actions regarding peace at the summit. Given the current situation, marked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and that country’s threat of the use of nuclear weapon, the prime minister defined the holding of the summit in the A-bombed city for the first time as “a first step toward realization of world peace” and called for “the need to achieve tangible results at the summit” toward the elimination of nuclear weapons.

(Originally published on June 10, 2022)