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 raise momentum toward abolishing nuclear weapons, the sources told Kyodo News.
Tokyo is eager to get Dion to tour the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and speak 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 peace park.
Japan plans to encourage Ottawa to approve the Dion visit by saying 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 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 who have visited Nagasaki since 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 its status as a nuclear victim, has been on overshadowed in recent years by Hiroshima. Nagasaki was attacked three days after 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 from May 26 to 27.
The G-7 groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.
Hiroshima was destroyed on Aug. 6, 1945, and Nagasaki on Aug. 9. Around 210,000 people are estimated to have been killed directly by the blasts or from the related radiation by the end of the year.
Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces on Aug. 15, bringing an end to World War II.