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Mar. 10, 2015 - Updated 04:16 UTC

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G7 Ministers Call for Nuclear Disarmament

Apr. 11, 2016

Foreign ministers from the G7 countries are urging leaders around the world to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The ministers concluded a 2-day meeting on Monday and released a declaration that focuses on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

As the host of the conference, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida announced their joint statements, including the Hiroshima Declaration.

That document says that the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki experienced immense devastation and human suffering as a consequence of the US atomic bombings.

And it says the ministers reaffirm their commitment to creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.

The ministers urge all states to work on practical and realistic initiatives that can promote meaningful dialogue between countries with and without nuclear weapons.

They also urge other nuclear-weapon states to enhance transparency. Diplomatic sources say the country the foreign ministers had in mind was China, which has not disclosed how many nuclear warheads it owns.

"The Hiroshima Declaration, and our visit to the sites related to the bombing, have marked a historic step forward to reinvigorate international momentum toward a world without nuclear weapons," Kishida said.

A separate communique from the meeting emphasizes the importance of countering terrorism and violent extremism. It says the G7 leaders will adopt an action plan when they meet in central Japan in May.

It also calls for nations to fully implement sanctions against North Korea for what they call the continuing threat posed by its nuclear and missile programs.

The G7 foreign ministers also visited the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima on Monday to pay their respects to the victims of the 1945 atomic bombing.

The group laid wreaths at a commemorative cenotaph and then walked to the Atomic Bomb Dome, at the suggestion of US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry is the first sitting US cabinet member to visit the park. It was also the first time for the foreign ministers of Britain and France. All 3 countries have nuclear weapons.

No sitting US president has ever visited Hiroshima. Now attention is focused on whether Barack Obama will become the first to do so.

The Washington Post says the White House hasn't made a final decision on the matter, but aides are considering a stop in Hiroshima after next month's G7 summit in Ise-Shima.

A senior administration official suggested Obama could deliver a speech in Hiroshima on nuclear nonproliferation.

The newspaper says there have been concerns in the past that visiting could be seen as an apology for the atomic bombing.

The White House is expected to assess the reaction to Kerry's visit and then decide whether Obama will go.

Kerry referred to this issue on Monday in Hiroshima.

"I know he's invited to do so, I know because he has said so publicly," Kerry said, referring to Obama. "He wants to come to Hiroshima sometime, but whether or not that can work in the next visit, I just don't know."

Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park is located near the epicenter of the first atomic bombing in 1945, and Kerry's presence there attracted particular attention.

"I want to express on a personal level how deeply moved I am and how honored I am to be here as the first secretary of the state to visit the beautiful city of Hiroshima," Kerry said. "You simply can't help but recognize that Hiroshima's legacy is one of rebirth and resilience. It is a tribute to the human spirit."

Before offering wreaths, Kerry and the other foreign ministers visited Peace Memorial Museum.

"This was the display I will personally never forget. I don't see how anyone could forget, the images, the evidence and the recreations of what happened on Aug. 6, 1945," Kerry said. "But the reason we came here was not to be stuck in the past."

Every year on Aug. 6, the anniversary of the bombing, people gather at Peace Memorial Park. But for decades, the US chose not to send government officials to the service.

In 1984, Jimmy Carter visited the park. But that was in a private capacity, after his 4-year presidency ended.

That changed when President Barack Obama took office in 2009. His administration began sending a representative to the memorial ceremony. Then US Ambassador to Japan John Roos was the first, followed by his successor, Caroline Kennedy.

The foreign ministers of 2 other nuclear-weapon states, Britain and France, also commented on their visit.

British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond posted a photo of the message he left in the book of condolences on his Twitter page.

He wrote, in part: "Let us redouble our efforts together for a world free of nuclear weapons and where disputes are resolved through dialogue and compromise."

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault posted a photo of himself laying flowers at the cenotaph, and tweeted that it was very symbolic moment.

"In the years following the war, the people of Hiroshima and Japan have built the country that has become powerful and important global partner," Kerry said.

"And much like Hiroshima has transformed into a stunning metropolis that we see today, the relationship between the United States and Japan has also undergone remarkable transformation."