The Korea Herald


Kerry in Japan for landmark Hiroshima visit

By 김다솔

Published : April 10, 2016 - 20:56

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HIROSHIMA, Japan (AFP) -- G7 foreign ministers on Sunday began two days of talks in Hiroshima, with John Kerry's visit to the atom-bombed city -- the first-ever by a U.S. secretary of state -- overshadowing the broader agenda.

Kerry's landmark trip is seen as possibly paving the way for Barack Obama to become the first serving U.S. president to visit the thriving metropolis next month, when he comes to Japan for the Group of Seven summit.

The meeting which started Sunday also includes top diplomats from nuclear-armed Britain and France, as well as Canada, Germany, Italy, host Japan and the European Union.

It is part of the run-up to the G7's rotating annual summit, scheduled this year from May 26-27 in another part of Japan.

The ministers were discussing issues including the Middle East, the refugee crisis, the conflict in Ukraine and global terrorism.

Japan also hopes to highlight rising territorial tensions in the South China Sea, where Beijing and some Southeast Asian nations have clashed, and North Korea's nuclear sabre-rattling.

Ministers have so far said little about the content of the meetings, though Kerry tweeted that they had a "big foreign policy agenda to cover" -- mentioning topics such as the Islamic State group as well as "Asia regional issues and global threats."

But it is the location of the talks that has captured the imagination of the Japanese public. Many hope it will promote greater understanding of Japan's staunch anti-nuclear stance as the only country to suffer atomic attack.

Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida, who represents Hiroshima in parliament, also hopes to issue a "Hiroshima Declaration" at the meeting to promote nuclear disarmament.

"On this occasion I want to send a strong message for peace and to realize a world free of nuclear weapons," Kishida said at a welcome reception.

Kerry and his counterparts are on Monday scheduled to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which houses the ruins of the iconic domed building gutted by the blast, and an accompanying museum.

On Sunday they engaged in some sightseeing that highlighted Japan's rich cultural history, paying a visit to one of its most famous sites, the seaside Itsukushima shrine that dates to the late sixth century.