September 2, 2008

Japan: G-8 Members Agree on Need for Nuclear Arms Reduction

Text of report in English by Japan's largest news agency Kyodo

Hiroshima, 2 September: Lower house speakers from the Group of Eight major nations agreed Tuesday to adhere to and further enhance the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as they wrapped up their one- day gathering in Hiroshima.

In closing the seventh annual conference, Japanese House of Representatives Speaker Yohei Kono told a press conference, "We agreed to maintain and further strengthen the spirit of the NPT, which is to promote non-proliferation among non-nuclear nations and nuclear disarmament among nuclear nations."

According to Kono, who briefed the press on the closed-door meeting, participants were content with the holding of this year's conference in Hiroshima, with some referring to the city as "an exceedingly suitable location for discussing the role of parliament in promoting peace and reducing arms."

Hiroshima is one of the two Japanese cities that suffered World War II atomic bombings by the United States in August 1945.

It was the first time that Japan has hosted the annual conference, which began in 2002. Hiroshima was chosen under the prodding of Kono as a means to underscore the efforts of Japan, the only country ever to endure an atomic bombing, to achieve world peace such as by abolishing nuclear arms.

"With this meeting as a start, I hope as many world leaders as possible will visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki," Kono said. "If they see the lasting impact of the atomic bombings, I believe they will have a firmer resolve to reduce arms and nuclear weapons than before."

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, who delivered a speech at the conference, told a separate press conference, "It is of great historical significance that the G-8 lower house speakers visited the atomic-bombed city. I'm sure that the feelings of Hiroshima residents and atomic-bomb survivors, who all hope for world peace, were conveyed to the speakers."

The participants from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States also discussed decision making in bicameral legislatures.

Kono touched on the situation in Japan where parliament is divided with the upper and lower houses controlled by opposing political groups.

Kono said with a wry smile, "It was beyond my imagination that our country's prime minister would announce his resignation the day before this gathering due to the divided bicameral parliament," referring to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's abrupt resignation announcement Monday.

Earlier Tuesday, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi laid a floral tribute at a monument in Hiroshima Peace Park with other G-8 speakers, becoming the highest-ranking serving US official to visit a city hit by an atomic bomb.

Pelosi is next in line to the US presidency after the vice president. Former US President Jimmy Carter visited Hiroshima after leaving office.

Akihiro Takahashi, former president of the Peace Memorial Museum, described to Pelosi and others the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, showing disfigured fingernails that he donated to the museum.

"Dropping an atomic bomb violates international law and is unforgivable but I think we have to overcome the feeling of hatred," said Takahashi, 77. "I hope all nuclear states will eliminate nuclear weapons at the earliest possible date."

The next G-8 lower house speakers' meeting is scheduled to be held in Rome around September next year.

Originally published by Kyodo News Service, Tokyo, in English 1258 2 Sep 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.