Activities of Secretary-General in Japan, 5–8 August
The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres arrived in Hiroshima from New York on the evening of Friday, 5 August.
On Saturday, he spoke at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony, which aims to console the souls of those lost to the atomic bombing, as well as pray for the realization of lasting world peace. In his remarks, the Secretary-General underscored that nuclear weapons are nonsense and called on countries to work urgently to eliminate the stockpiles that threaten our future.
The Secretary-General said his message to leaders is simple: Stop flirting with disaster. Take the nuclear option off the table — for good. [See Press Release SG/SM/21401]
After the ceremony, he met with Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida, with whom he discussed issues in the region including the situation in the Korean Peninsula and Japan’s efforts to tackle climate change, among others. After their meeting, the Prime Minister gave the Secretary-General a special tour of the Peace Museum, and they then signed the museum’s guestbook.
Following the tour, the Secretary-General met with a group of survivors of the atomic bomb, known as the hibakusha, who shared their experiences with him.
This encounter was followed by a meeting with the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who bestowed upon him a special honorary citizenship. Accepting this honour, the Secretary-General said that it is impossible for people to come to Hiroshima and not to feel the absurdity of the existence of nuclear weapons, and that he accepted this honour on behalf of all those working for a nuclear weapons-free world and in the memory of those tens of thousands of people who were killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 77 years ago. [See Press Release SG/SM/21402]
He then held a press encounter in Hiroshima and told reporters that the world is in danger of forgetting the lessons forged in this city 77 years ago. He added that it is unacceptable for states in possession of nuclear weapons to admit the possibility of nuclear war. He stressed that we must use every avenue of dialogue, diplomacy and negotiation to ease tensions and eliminate the nuclear threat.
The Secretary-General also met with the Hiroshima Governor, Hidehiko Yuzaki, and then took part in a dialogue with young activists who are leading initiatives on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. He emphasized the importance of young people speaking up for nuclear disarmament and keeping the memory of the impacts of the bombings alive. This was followed by an interview with the national broadcaster NHK at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) offices. He then met and took pictures with the UNITAR staff members.
That evening, the Secretary-General went back to his hotel where he met with Natsuo Yamaguchi, the Chairperson of Japan’s Komeito Party.
The Secretary-General then left Hiroshima for Tokyo, arriving that night. On Sunday, the Secretary-General had a private programme and did not hold any official meetings.
On Monday, the Secretary-General met with Japan’s Foreign Minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi. After their meeting, the Secretary-General held a press conference at Japan’s National Press Club, where he stressed that at a time when geopolitical tensions are rising and the nuclear threat is back in focus, he had two asks for countries: First, he asked nuclear armed countries to commit to the “no first use” of nuclear weapons and second, to never use or threaten non-nuclear armed countries with the use of nuclear weapons, with full transparency in relation to their arsenals. He said he hoped these asks will be taken seriously because “we are witnessing a radicalization in the geopolitical situation that makes the risk of a nuclear war again, something we cannot completely forget.” In addition, he urged Japan to take climate action by cutting emissions, stop funding coal plants abroad and partner with countries to help them transition to renewable energy.
After the press conference he had a private audience with Japan’s Emperor Naruhito. This was followed by a meeting with Yukio Takasu, his Adviser on Human Security.
In the afternoon, he flew from Tokyo to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.