Kishida on Upcoming G7 Meeting
Mar. 28, 2016
NHK World's Takeshi Kurihara sat down with Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida to find out how he intends to navigate discussions on global issues at a meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Hiroshima next month.
Kurihara: So Mr. Minister, would you tell us your personal goals leading up to the upcoming ministerial meeting in Hiroshima?
Kishida: The meeting will take place in Hiroshima, where I'm from. During the meeting, I wish to have intensive discussion on urgent issues of growing international concern, such as terrorism and violent extremism, refugee crisis, and ongoing situation in the Middle East, and Ukraine. This will be the first G7 meeting held in Asia in 8 years. Therefore, I'm ready to take the lead in demonstrating G7's firm response in addressing challenges in Asia as well.
In November, Paris was hit by a series of coordinated terrorist attacks.
Then last week, the Belgian capital of Brussels, site of the European Union's headquarters, became a target. These attacks sent out a series of shockwaves, as 4 of the G7 countries are EU members.
"I feel the most important issue to be discussed at the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting will be measures to fight terrorism and violent extremism. This is a matter on which all the G7 countries need to fully cooperate. First, each country must prepare its own measures, putting its own unique advantage to its best use. I am hoping to send out a strong message to lay out such an overall strategy at the meeting."
Fumio Kishida / Japanese Foreign Minister
Another challenge for the G7 foreign ministers is the urgent need to deal with civil war in Syria. About 4.8 million people have fled the country. As many as 6.6 million are estimated to have been displaced within the country.
"In Syria and Iraq, there are many more internally displaced people than refugees who have left to other countries, and these internally displaced people are in a dire situation. Offering humanitarian assistance for these people is crucial. Japan is hoping to contribute to this problem besides other issues. We need to discuss how we should proceed to deal with these matters with all the members of the G7."
Fumio Kishida / Japanese Foreign Minister
Turning to Asia, China is stepping up military presence and other activities in the South China Sea. North Korea is carrying out provocative actions such as nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches. How will Japan address these issues at the meeting?
"I think the G7 countries can agree on the principles to adhere to international law and to oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo. I would like to have intensive discussions on the issues and deliver a clear message from the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting."
Fumio Kishida / Japanese Foreign Minister
Hideaki Shinoda, an expert on peace-building issues at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, and NHK World's Takeshi Kurihara, who interviewed the foreign minister, joined anchors Sho Beppu and Aki Shibuya in the studio.
Beppu: First, Takeshi, Minister Kishida told you that the most pressing issue at the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting will be the issue of terrorism. How do you think he's going to lead discussions on this topic?
Kurihara: It was interesting to hear him stressing in the interview that it’s important for each country to take measures based on their own advantages. As for Japan, the government has been offering humanitarian assistance to Syria and its neighboring countries to eradicate poverty and provide education. Kishida strongly believes that it's important to help build a society that will not be a breeding spot for extremism. Japan has been using this concept as one of the pillars of its counter-terrorism assistance. It is expected that he'll make this position clear at the meeting.
Beppu: Minister Kishida also said he would like to raise the issue of China and North Korea. What does he want to achieve through this?
Kurihara: Kishida views this meeting as a good opportunity to attract the attention of the international community to East Asia. As we saw in the video, the security climate in the region is becoming more severe. But officials in the Foreign Ministry often tell me that issues in East Asia are unlikely to attract the attention of other G7 nations as much as issues in the Middle East and Ukraine. That's why Kishida is hoping that the G7 nations as a group will send a strong message on these regional issues.
Shibuya: Professor Shinoda, what do you think was the most significant point of Foreign Minister Kishida’s remarks?
Shinoda: Kishida mentioned that it will be the first time in 8 years that the G7 meeting is held in Asia. I think there was a time when we used to view Japan’s presence in the G7 as representing the voice of Asia. But the rise of China as a superpower is changing our perception in this regard. China, in my view, will be closely watching how the G7 meeting handles what Japan calls the international rule of law in regards to territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Japan must bring a substantive agenda on Asia to the G7 meeting in a very responsible manner so that the member nations and other countries around the world will benefit from this meeting by getting a good understanding of the issues in this region.
Shibuya: Let's now turn our focus to where the meeting will be taking place.
Hiroshima is remembered as the first city to experience an atomic bombing in 1945.
On Sunday, Foreign Minister Kishida took part in a forum in Hiroshima aimed at the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Since 2013, the Foreign Ministry has been commissioning young people to serve as Youth Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons. These young communicators have been visiting various countries together with atomic-bomb survivors and taking part in international conferences.
“Nuclear weapons are dreadful arms that can’t coexist with human beings. I hope Japan will strengthen its economic and other forms of ties with the international community to build trust so that we don’t have to rely on nuclear arms for our security," one female student said at the forum.
Kishida said the ministry will aim to name young people from abroad as communicators as well.
“We need to spread the knowledge of the realities of the use of nuclear weapons across generations and borders," the foreign minister said at the event. "We need to revive the momentum for nuclear disarmament.”
The Japanese government has been taking various actions toward nuclear disarmament. In February, officials attended the first session of a UN working group to study legal measures to abolish nuclear weapons. But nuclear-weapon states are opposed to the move. They stayed away from the session altogether.
"I feel it imperative that both nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states must cooperate with each other to produce concrete results. The G7 is a framework that includes both states. If we can produce results within this framework, it will truly be a great achievement," Kishida said.
"When we think about the issue of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, we need to be aware of two aspects. One is a clear understanding of the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons and the other is an objective assessment of the current severe security environment. With these two things in mind, we need to proceed with a realistic and practical approach," he said.
This is the first time that the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting will be held in a place hit by an atomic bomb. The foreign ministers from nuclear-weapon states -- the United States, France and the United Kingdom -- will be paying their first official visits to Hiroshima.
Kishida is a Diet member elected from Hiroshima. In preparation for the forthcoming meeting, he visited Canada, Italy and France, and called for their cooperation for nuclear disarmament.
"If many more countries become aware of the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons, and if we can share this awareness with them, I believe it will be the prime force to achieve the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. I believe it is important for the world’s leaders to visit the site of atomic bombings and directly witness the realities. Then, we can share the same awareness," Kishida said.
Kurihara: Are you considering a visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum with the G7 foreign ministers?
Kishida: As I have just said, it is important for the world’s leaders to directly witness the realities of the atomic bombings. We are hoping that the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Hiroshima will be an opportunity for this. We are now arranging schedules of relevant events.
Kurihara: There are some expectations that U.S. President Barack Obama may visit Hiroshima.
Kishida: We have been asking world leaders to come to where the atomic bombs were dropped. If they do come, it can certainly boost our aim to achieve a world without nuclear weapons. But I am not in a position to say anything about the U.S. President’s schedule in Japan. My understanding is that nothing has been decided as of yet.
This G7 Foreign Ministers' Meeting will be held in Hiroshima where the atomic bomb was dropped. I wish to deliver a strong message of peace, seeking a world without nuclear weapons with my G7 counterparts from Hiroshima.
Shibuya: Professor Shinoda, besides teaching in Tokyo, among other things, you've been researching nuclear disarmament issues in Hiroshima for many years. How do you see the impact of holding the meeting in Hiroshima?
Shinoda: I do not believe the meeting in Hiroshima will suddenly achieve rapid progress in nuclear disarmament. Of course, symbolically, it is politically significant that the foreign ministers of the G7, including nuclear powers, will gather in Hiroshima to discuss world peace. Japan must be able to present contemporary issues with traditional concerns about nuclear weapons -- for instance, how to prevent the transfer of nuclear technologies and materials to terrorists and extremists.
Beppu: So, Takeshi, Minister Kishida says he wants the G7 foreign ministers to see the realities of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima. And that's also why the meeting is going to be hosted in Hiroshima. What does he hope to achieve through this?
Kurihara: Well, that's exactly what I asked him in the interview. His response was that he believes if global leaders witness, with their own eyes, the tragedy of the atomic bombing, and share awareness of the inhumane consequences, this can lead to nuclear disarmament. For the first time ever, the foreign ministers of nuclear-weapon states will be visiting Hiroshima. Kishida is hoping that they will take the opportunity to visit both the Peace Memorial Park and the Peace Memorial Museum. However, this may not be easy.
Beppu: Why is it so difficult for them to visit two places?
Kurihara: When it comes to the museum, as you know, it shows the tragedies of the bombing. Whenever world leaders, especially those from nuclear-weapon states visit the site, they have to be careful of their own governments' positions on the issue and the reaction of their public as well. So we'll have to wait and see how things unfold.
Beppu: Professor, Shinoda, what's your take on this point?
Shinoda: We should not create an environment in which nuclear powers are embarrassed in Hiroshima. Instead, we should focus on communicating the lessons learned in Hiroshima such as the reconstruction process of the city. The lessons can be applicable to contemporary issues. For instance, when I hold training programs in Hiroshima for contemporary peacebuilding practitioners, I encourage the participants to go to the Peace Memorial Park. The simple act of offering a bouquet of flowers all together creates a sense of solidarity among the participants. I would like to point out that the recent increase in the number of foreign visitors to Hiroshima indicates the great potential of Hiroshima as a place to think about peace and reconstruction, to break a vicious cycle of revenge.
Shibuya: Takeshi, why is it essential that Japan send this message from Hiroshima at this particular point in time?
Kurihara: The momentum toward nuclear disarmament is said to be at its lowest point since the end of the Cold War. For example, the US and Russia are at odds over the situation in Ukraine and elsewhere. Combined, the two countries possess about 90 percent of all the nuclear weapons in the world. We don't have any idea of how this situation will be resolved. In addition, last year’s NPT Review Conference failed to reach an agreement. More recently, North Korea conducted a nuclear test, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
Kishida is hoping to use the meeting in Hiroshima as an opportunity to revive international discussions on nuclear disarmament. This is also a test for Kishida as the chairperson. The international community will be watching how he'll try to get his message out of “a world free of nuclear weapons."
Beppu: And finally to Professor Shinoda, what kind of role can and should Japan play in achieving this goal?
Shinoda: Minister Kishida has expressed his wish to introduce Asian perspectives at the meeting. This means, for instance, discussions will include the North Korean nuclear issue even at a time when so much attention is on the Middle East. I would like to see the solidarity of the G7 countries on various issues like North Korea, in terms of the importance of preventive actions to avoid new crises in Asia. When something critical happens in Asia, we will definitely need the solidarity of the G7 countries in Asia.