Japan has sounded out Canada about the possibility of Stephane Dion becoming the first sitting foreign minister from a Group of Seven country to visit Nagasaki, to boost efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons, sources said Tuesday.
The Japanese government wants more world leaders to make a pilgrimage to Nagasaki and Hiroshima, both A-bombed by the United States in World War II, following U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to the latter in May to foster momentum toward abolishing nuclear weapons, the sources told Kyodo News.
Tokyo is eager to get Dion to tour the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and hold talks with hibakusha during the visit, they said.
While taking part in the G-7 foreign ministerial meeting in Hiroshima in April, the top Canadian diplomat visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum along with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other G-7 peers, and laid flowers at the cenotaph for the atomic bomb victims in the peace park marking the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of the city.
Japan plans to encourage Ottawa to approve the Dion visit by saying that it would provide a good opportunity for Canada to demonstrate its leadership in trying to create a nuclear-free world.
Tokyo invited Dion to visit Japan as a Foreign Ministry guest after the G-7 summit held in Japan in May, the sources said. Although Ottawa has yet to formally respond, Tokyo hopes he will make the trip by the end of this year, they said.
Canada is a core member of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative — a coalition of 12 nonnuclear countries within the framework of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Foreign dignitaries to visit Nagasaki after World War II include Pope John Paul II in 1981 and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991.
Concerns have been mounting from officials and residents in Nagasaki that the city’s status as a nuclear ground zero, attacked just three days after Hiroshima in 1945, has been on the decline in recent years compared with Hiroshima.
In addition to the G-7 foreign ministers, Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima when he came to Japan to attend the annual G-7 summit on May 26-27.
The G-7 groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.
The United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and a second one on Nagasaki Aug. 9. Around 210,000 people are estimated to have died as a result of the attacks by the end of 1945. Japan surrendered on Aug. 15 of the same year, bringing an end to World War II.