Japanese foreign minister returns from meetings on nuclear disarmament

by Junpei Fujimura, Staff Writer

On April 12, Japan’s foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, arrived back in Japan after a five-day trip to the Netherlands and the United Kingdom in which he attended the ministerial meetings of the Non-proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) and the Group of Eight (G8) foreign ministers.

On April 11, when the G8 meeting concluded in London, Mr. Kishida offered his perspective on the gathering, telling reporters there that “I was able to share Japan’s position regarding North Korea with the other nations and I felt their solid support.”

The meeting was occupied with the question of how to react to North Korea, which continues to pursue its nuclear ambitions and is poised to launch ballistic missiles. The chairman’s statement reflects Japan’s stance, using forceful language that “condemns North Korea’s actions in the strongest terms.”

At the ministerial meeting of the NPDI, the participating nations reaffirmed their pursuit of “a world without nuclear weapons” by crafting six specific proposals for the 2015 Review Conference for the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). The next ministerial meeting of the NPDI will take place in 2014 in Hiroshima.

Commentary: Non-nuclear diplomacy makes a mark

The non-nuclear diplomacy pursued by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who is a native of Hiroshima, has made a mark at the ministerial meetings of the NPDI and the G8. The occasions again demonstrated the importance of Japan, which knows the horror of nuclear arms, taking the lead in discussions to advance “a world without nuclear weapons.”

“I am from Hiroshima and I would like to be proactive in working on nuclear disarmament,” Mr. Kishida repeatedly voiced at the meetings of the NPDI and the G8, as well as in talks with other foreign ministers, in order to convey Japan’s proactive stance.

The meetings came at a time of growing concern over North Korean moves to launch its missiles. At both meetings, the participating nations shared in a deeper awareness of the dilemma, due to heightened interest in North Korea and Mr. Kishida’s position. This led to a joint statement that strongly criticizes North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and its talk of launching ballistic missiles.

At the ministerial meeting of the NPDI, Mr. Kishida announced his idea for the creation of a new program called “Youth Special Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons,” in which young people will help convey the horrors of the consequences of nuclear arms. This idea was embraced by the participating nations as an original undertaking by the A-bombed nation. The joint statement issued by the NPDI welcomed the program.

NPDI members also shared their expectations for their next meeting, to be held in Hiroshima in April 2014. Japan will serve as presiding nation at an important time, just a year prior to the NPT Review Conference in 2015. One after another, such comments were made: “It is significant that the meeting in the A-bombed city will issue proposals concerning nuclear disarmament” and “To strengthen the presence of the NPDI, we hope Japan will exert greater leadership.”

Mr. Kishida stressed, “I would like to make the meeting in Hiroshima the starting point for a world without nuclear weapons.” To turn this sentiment into reality, however, Japan must stand taller. It is essential that Mr. Kishida display convincing words and actions as a foreign minister who hails from Hiroshima.

(Originally published on April 13, 2013)