Ban to push antinuke goal at Hiroshima, Nagasaki

by Seana K. Magee

Kyodo News

NEW YORK — U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said Wednesday he hopes to utilize his upcoming visits to Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombings to push forward his goal of realizing a world free of nuclear arms.

“During my visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I will try to send a strong and very important message to the world that the nuclear threat is real, and that we must do everything we can (to) build on the current global momentum toward a nuclear weapon-free world,” the U.N. chief told reporters ahead of his trip to Japan that begins next Tuesday and includes stops in the two cities.

“I have chosen two cities as the venue to send out this message,” he said. “These cities stand as significant reminders of the need to achieve a nuclear weapon-free world.”

He is also scheduled to meet with atomic bomb survivors and will pay visits to memorials dedicated to Korean atomic bomb survivors as well.

As a former foreign minister of his native South Korea and a key negotiator in dealing with efforts to denuclearize North Korea, he said he has always had concerns about nuclear matters and that since taking up his current post he feels an even greater sense of responsibility.

Stressing that it has been 65 years since the first atomic bombs were dropped, he stood behind his belief that it was the international community’s political and moral responsibility to realize the goal of ending proliferation.

On Aug. 6, Ban will become the first U.N. secretary general to participate in the commemoration to be held in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park. He will also visit Nagasaki a day earlier.

While in the two cities, Ban said, he intends to express his “sincere sympathy” with the hibakusha, as well as his “firm commitment” to work with political leaders from around the world to realize the goal of ridding the world of the weapons — one of his priority agenda items for 2010.

Hailing a “successful” 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference held in New York in May, Ban also cited the leadership role taken by politicians, including U.S. President Barack Obama.

“I would also like to draw attention to the growing political momentum for the creation of a legal framework to accomplish a total elimination of nuclear weapons,” he said.

Ban highlighted the need to “act in a time frame so that at least some hibakusha will live to see the end of all nuclear weapons.”

The State Department said Wednesday that U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos will attend the Aug. 6 annual ceremony in Hiroshima, becoming the first U.S. government representative to be sent to the event.

That decision, Ban said, “seems to demonstrate their political commitment to work together with the United Nations and international community to realize a world without nuclear weapons.”

Before making the symbolic visit to the atomic-bombed cities, Ban will begin his trip in Tokyo, where he will meet with Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, among other officials.

In addition to tackling a comprehensive set of issues ranging from climate change to counterterrorism, and peace-building in Africa to human security, Ban said he will also address regional issues, including the situation on the Korean Peninsula, in his bilateral meetings.

This will be Ban’s fourth visit to Japan as U.N. chief.

Roos visit confirmed

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) The State Department said Wednesday that U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos will attend the annual ceremony in Hiroshima to commemorate the atomic bombing of the city on Aug. 6, becoming the first U.S. government representative to be sent to the event.

“Ambassador John Roos will represent the United States at the Aug. 6th Hiroshima Peace Memorial to express respect for all of the victims of World War II,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.

Asked if the decision to send a U.S. representative to the event has any special meaning, Crowley said, “We thought it was the right thing to do.”

The spokesman declined to say whether Roos will also attend the A-bomb memorial service in Nagasaki on Aug. 9.

The announcement came as U.S. President Barack Obama pushes hard for a world without nuclear weapons.