As first step toward world without nuclear weapons—Prime Minister Kishida’s message delivered at 1st International Eminent Persons meeting in Hiroshima

by Koji Higuchi, Staff Writer

The first meeting of the International Group of Eminent Persons for a World without Nuclear Weapons opened at the Grand Prince Hotel Hiroshima, located in the city’s Minami Ward, on December 10, 2022. The two-day meeting is scheduled to conclude December 11. Group members are comprised of specialists and diplomats from Japan and overseas who will explore a path forward for the abolition of nuclear weapons. With Russia repeating its threats to use nuclear weapons and the notion of nuclear deterrence gaining increased momentum internationally, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida communicated his hopes in a message at the opening session that the group would “come up with concrete measures on what actions to take with the current harsh reality in mind.” He also called on the meeting to serve as “an important step in building momentum toward a world without nuclear weapons.”

The meeting was proposed by the prime minister to serve as a forum for members from both nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states to engage in debate by stepping outside of their ordinary boundaries. Of the group’s total of 15 members, 12 are participating in this inaugural meeting. They represent such countries as the United States, Russia, and China, as well as New Zealand, a nation that supports the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Mr. Kishida’s message was read aloud to the group by a representative on his behalf.

Beyond the group of leaders who participated in the Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament, also put together by Mr. Kishida when he served as Japan’s Foreign Minister, the new group included the involvement of a broader range of political leaders, with six of the members sending video messages. Barack Obama, who in 2016 became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, touched on the international headwinds facing nuclear disarmament when he said, “We owe it to our children to pursue a world without nuclear weapons.”

Following those video statements and a closed-door session, participants listened to the A-bombing experience of Teruko Yahata, 85, a resident of the area of Fuchu-cho who experienced the atomic bombing in Koihonmachi (now part of Hiroshima’s Nishi Ward), 2.5 kilometers from the hypocenter. Participants asked about the effects of radiation, among other questions. They also talked with Toshiyuki Mimaki, 80, co-chairperson of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations and a resident of the town of Kitahiroshima in Hiroshima Prefecture, and with 18 young people who are working to eliminate nuclear weapons.

Takashi Shiraishi, chancellor of the Prefectural University of Kumamoto who is serving as chair of the meeting, reported to the media after the first day that, during the closed-door discussion, group members had worked to highlight factors that are hindering nuclear disarmament efforts. “We had intense discussions,” said Mr. Shiraishi. On December 11, the members are scheduled to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, located in the city’s Naka Ward, and later engage in further discussions. The prime minister is scheduled to attend the final session.

Prime Minister Kishida hopes the meeting will provide momentum for the summit meeting of the G7 (Group of Seven industrialized nations) to be held in his hometown of Hiroshima in May 2023. Another meeting of the International Group of Eminent Persons is scheduled to be held in Hiroshima sometime in fiscal 2023.

(Originally published on December 11, 2022)