Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G-7) industrialized countries -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.S. - are meeting in the western Japanese city of Hiroshima on Sunday and Monday.
Japan hopes to send a message of nonproliferation and peace. Once all but annihilated by a U.S. atomic bomb, Hiroshima has risen back as a symbol of peace and nuclear disarmament. It's also the hometown of host Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. Hiroshima can also entertain the guests with its homegrown oysters, reputed to be Japan's best, and the picturesque Miyajima shrine by the sea.
Kishida told Sunday's reception that he hoped the experience would help the visiting ministers to "learn how Hiroshima has risen back from the atomic bombings to become the symbol of peace and hope."
Peace Memorial Park and A-Bomb Museum
The foreign ministers will honor the dead at the Hiroshima Peace Park and visit the nearby Atomic Bomb Museum on Monday, a dream come true for many surviving victims, who have for decades campaigned to bring leaders of nuclear states to Hiroshima to see the damage. Japan also hopes the ministers will issue a separate "Hiroshima declaration" on nuclear nonproliferation, in addition to the usual communique.
Following the recent attacks in Belgium, the ministers condemned terrorism and violent extremism, and agreed that the G-7 countries should take leadership in stepping up global effort against such attacks. Also high on the agenda were nuclear nonproliferation, including North Korea's recent rocket and missile launches, maritime security amid China's assertive posture in the East and South China seas, as well as the Middle East and Ukraine.
Russia, absent, but on the agenda
A key player not in the room is Russia. The eighth member of what used to be the G-8 has been excluded since last year because of its support for separatist rebels in Ukraine. Russia's foreign minister is due to visit Tokyo to meet Japanese counterpart Kishida later in the week, a possible prelude to a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Russia in May. Other G-7 countries might not welcome such a trip.
The foreign ministers' meeting is the first of 10 ministerial meetings including finance, energy, environment and agriculture, held across the country ahead of the G-7 leader's summit on May 26-27 in the coastal city of Shima in central Japan, near Ise, home to a Shinto shrine known as the nation's most sacred with links to the emperor.