United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, accompanied by Madam Ban Soon-taek, arrived in Tokyo from New York in the afternoon of Tuesday, 3 August, to be in Japan for the sixty-fifth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“We must do everything we can to build on the current global momentum towards a nuclear-weapon-free world,” the Secretary-General told reporters after meeting with Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada of Japan.
The joint press encounter followed a meeting and a working dinner with the Foreign Minister during which they discussed cooperation between the United Nations and Japan, the second largest contributor to the United Nations regular budget and to United Nations peacekeeping operations.
The Secretary-General lauded Japan’s contribution across the United Nations agenda — from climate change to counter-terrorism, from peacebuilding in Africa to human security and efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. They also discussed regional matters such as the Korean peninsula, Afghanistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Somalia.
His first meeting on arrival Tuesday was with Sadako Ogata, President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
The Secretary-General spent Wednesday in Tokyo and had his first official meeting with Prime Minister Naoto Kan. They held a joint press encounter afterwards.
He also met with a number of political, academic and business leaders. Among those he met was Minister of Defence Toshimi Kitazawa. He went to the Diet building to meet with Takahiro Yokomichi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Takeo Nishioka, the President of the House of Councillors and other members of Parliament.
In addition, he met with Hiromisa Yonekura, the Chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) and attended a dinner hosted by the United Nations Association of Japan. He also attended a dinner hosted by the United Nations Association of Japan that featured United Nations Goodwill ambassadors and supporters of the United Nations in Japan.
In remarks to students gathered at Waseda University in Tokyo, he urged them to ask government leaders, despite the economic challenges brought on by the global economic downturn, to continue their commitment to developing countries. That is what the international community expects from a major economy such as Japan. (See Press Release SG/SM/13038 of 4 August.)
He travelled to Nagasaki on Thursday morning and toured the Atomic Bomb Museum and met with a number of survivors, including 84-year-old Kwon Soon Geum who moved from Korea at the age of 5, and Sumiteru Taniguchi, who was 16 years old when he suffered terrible burns all over his back. Now 81, Mr. Taniguchi, spoke to the Secretary-General in front of the well-known photo of himself at the time of the bombing.
“Their injuries were shocking. Their fortitude has been unimaginable and extraordinary,” Mr. Ban told a press conference. “Their devotion to using their experiences to promote peace and disarmament is inspiring and humbling.”
Describing his day in Nagasaki as “a profoundly moving day”, he said his visit to that city had strengthened his conviction that nuclear weapons must be outlawed, and he urged all nations to support his five-point action plan for nuclear disarmament and to agree to negotiate a nuclear weapons convention at the earliest possible date.
While in Nagasaki, the Secretary-General and his wife laid a wreath at the monument located at ground zero, where he also delivered a message of peace, (Press Release SG/SM/13043 of 5 August). He visited a separate memorial for Korean victims (Press Release SG/SM/13044 of 5 August), as well as the now rebuilt Urakami cathedral that was completely destroyed in the bombing.
He and Madam Ban then took a bullet train from Nagasaki to Hiroshima, where he attended a welcome dinner hosted by the city and met with Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba.
On Friday morning, the Secretary-General became the first United Nations Secretary-General to take part in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony.
“Together, we are on a journey from ground zero to Global Zero — a world free of weapons of mass destruction,” he said in his remarks at the ceremony (Press Release SG/SM/13045 of 6 August).
“That is the only sane path to a safer world. For as long as nuclear weapons exist, we will live under a nuclear shadow,” he said.
Noting encouraging new commitments by the world’s nuclear Powers, the Secretary-General said he would build political momentum by convening a high-level meeting in New York in September in support of the Conference on Disarmament.
The Secretary-General and Madam Ban then visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and heard a testimonial by an atomic bomb survivor and met with hibakusha.
He also spoke at a welcome ceremony by Hiroshima during which he was given an honorary Hiroshima citizenship and in turn he presented 1,000 cranes folded by United Nations staff to the mayor of Hiroshima. (See Press Release SG/SM/13046 of 6 August.)
The Secretary-General also paid tribute at the Memorial for Korean atomic-bomb victims (Press Release SG/SM/13055 of 11 August), had a lively exchange with students at a local high school and gave a press conference before flying back to Tokyo.
His last scheduled appointment on Friday was a reception and dinner hosted by the Global Compact Japan Network (Press Release SG/SM/13047 of 6 August).
The Secretary-General left Tokyo for New York on Saturday morning, 7 August.