U.N. disarmament conference drops call for leaders to visit Hiroshima after China envoy complains


The U.N. conference on nuclear disarmament may not call on global leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki — as Japan wants them to do — after a Chinese envoy said Beijing would resist efforts by Tokyo to portray itself as a victim.

Three committees at the monthlong conference for parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty have been compiling elements they hope will become part of the final outcome document at the end of the intensive negotiations process.

A first draft produced by one of the committees last week noted the proposal that national leaders visit the Japanese cities on the 70th anniversary of the U.S atomic bombings and listen to the voices of survivors.

The new document, lacking references to the visits, came after Chinese Ambassador for Disarmament Affairs Fu Cong said Monday he had requested that mention of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki visits be dropped.

“We don’t want the humanitarian issue (regarding nuclear weapons) to be taken advantage of by (a) certain government with ulterior motives in trying to distort the history and trying to impose a partial interpretation of the Second World War on the conference, so we want the deletion,” Fu told Kyodo News on Monday, speaking in English.

“The purpose is that they (the Japanese government) are trying to portray Japan as a victim of the Second World War, rather than a victimizer,” he told reporters on Tuesday, noting how the Japanese military committed atrocities in his country, as well as in Korea and South East Asia.

On the April 27 opening day of the review conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida delivered a speech inviting political leaders from across the globe to travel to the two cities and “witness with their own eyes the realities of atomic bombings.”

The Chinese envoy said he asked the reference to Hiroshima and Nagasaki be deleted during a closed-door meeting of the review conference on Monday.

“We don’t want any mention of Hiroshima (or) Nagasaki because there are reasons why those two (cities) were bombed,” Fu said on Monday.

“We have nothing against the Japanese people, least of all with the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombing,” he later told reporters.

He also contrasted the Japanese government’s attitude toward the atomic bombings with its view of “comfort women,” a euphemism for those who were forced to work at Japanese military brothels before and during World War II, saying Tokyo had “denied” the testimonies of survivors.

Wartime history remains a sensitive issue for Japan and China, even though there have been recent signs of a thaw in their relations. China suffered from Japan’s wartime actions.

Fu said that “there are too many historical baggages to the two cities so we hope that this conference should keep clear of the history.”

Diplomatic sources also said South Korea was against including any reference to the visits in the final document.

Fu said at least a dozen countries, both publicly and privately, had expressed support for Beijing’s push to remove the reference.

A Japanese government source said Japan “will make maximum efforts” to reinstate the deleted portion.

“There is a possibility of the reference to be restored as negotiations are in the initial stage, but Japan may be forced to make some concessions in other areas,” another source said.

A final outcome document of the NPT review conference is expected to be produced under the leadership of Chairwoman Taous Feroukhi after the draft text is negotiated by the three committees — on nuclear disarmament, nuclear nonproliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

A final document cannot always be produced, as was the case most in 2005 when consensus could not be reached.

The review conference has been held once every five years since the nonproliferation treaty took effect in 1970. The current meeting is scheduled to run through May 22.

Significant gaps in views remain over how to move nonproliferation forward among the roughly 190 signatory states.

At Monday’s closed-door session, nuclear states also expressed their opposition to a call for a potential legal framework such as a convention to ban nuclear weapons in the earlier draft circulated last week, diplomatic sources said.

The latest revision of the text, however, retains the call for such framework.

But a European diplomat described how the latest changes reflect a watering down of the original text.

The five nuclear powers recognized under the NPT — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — favor a step-by-step approach to disarmament over instituting a ban on nuclear weapons.