Japan's PM Abe to call for nuclear disarmament with Obama in Hiroshima

US President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrive for a joint news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, on April 28, 2015.
US President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrive for a joint news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, on April 28, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided that he will also issue a message calling for nuclear disarmament along with US President Barack Obama when the two leaders visit Hiroshima on Friday (May 27), The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Abe will be accompanying Obama's visit to the atomic-bombed city after attending the two-day Group of Seven summit meeting starting Thursday in Mie prefecture. It will be the first visit by an incumbent US president to Hiroshima.

Abe aims to boost the momentum for nuclear disarmament as the leader of the only country to have suffered a nuclear attack, sources said.

He and Obama will deliver their messages, expected to last several minutes each, after offering flowers at the cenotaph for the atomic bomb victims in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Arrangements are also being made to invite some atomic bomb survivors and US veterans held captive by the Japanese military during World War II to observe the ceremony.

In his message, Obama is expected to refer to Hiroshima and Nagasaki as "symbols of both that loss of innocent life, but also the toll of nuclear weapons," according to Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser to the president.

Abe said he hopes that Obama's visit to Hiroshima will serve as "an opportunity in which both Japan and the United States will honor all lives lost."

The prime minister is expected to express this view when he delivers his message on Friday.

Japanese and US government officials have been discussing where the two leaders will deliver their remarks. This should be a "place suitable for paying a tribute to the victims and delivering historic messages calling for nuclear disarmament," such as in front of the cenotaph or the Atomic Bomb Dome near the park, a source said.

The venue could be moved to the International Conference Centre Hiroshima, located within the park, if the weather becomes stormy, according to the sources.

The summit meeting will conclude sometime after noon on Friday, and Abe will then hold a press conference as the chairman. The press conference will be held earlier than the initial schedule to allow the prime minister to visit Hiroshima.

Obama will leave Mie Prefecture for the Iwakuni base in Yamaguchi prefecture to meet officers of the US Marines and the Japanese Self-Defence Forces. Abe will leave for Hiroshima immediately after the press conference to welcome the president in the city.

On the sidelines of the G-7 summit meeting, Abe will have bilateral talks with leaders of seven other countries, mainly from the Asia-Pacific region and Africa, invited for an outreach meeting.

The bilateral talks were initially planned for Friday evening or later after the end of the summit, but have been changed to Saturday in Nagoya.