G7 leaders visit Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

Hiroshima (Japan): Amid tight security, the Group of Seven leaders made an unprecedented visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum on Friday — in a highly symbolic move that kick-started a critical three-day summit in the city and was intended to spur momentum for nuclear disarmament. The leaders also visited a small island in Hiroshima Bay containing a world heritage shrine.

The leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, started their morning by visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. It was the first time for them to do so together.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his wife, Yuko, greeted the leaders in the park, with Kishida serving as the tour guide.

The heads of the G7 nations and the European Union laid wreaths at the cenotaph for victims of the atomic bomb, which was dropped on the city by the US during World War II, marking the first-ever use of the devastating weapon.

The G7 leaders were briefed by Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui on the history of the Atomic Bomb Dome and the tragic events of August 6, 1945.

Afterward, the leaders wrote their impressions in the museum’s visitors’ book. They also posed for a group photo in front of the monument.

In another symbolic gesture, the leaders planted a sapling grafted with a branch of a Somei-Yoshino cherry tree in the park.

The tree is dubbed the “atomic-bombed Sakura” because it was exposed to the August 6, 1945, atomic blast but survived.

The museum opened in 1955, 10 years after the bombing. It owns around 22,000 items, including photographs of the destruction and items belonging to victims.

The last, and first, visit to Hiroshima by an incumbent US president, was by Barack Obama in May 2016.

The leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations also visited a small island in Hiroshima Bay containing a world heritage shrine and sat down to a working dinner at a traditional hot-spring inn there at the end of the first day of their summit Friday.

The theme of the working dinner was “diplomacy and security.” The discussion likely focused on the security situation in the Indo-Pacific region, including China, as well as the challenges of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and other leaders arrived at Miyajima Island, a popular tourist destination in the Seto Inland Sea, on a cruiser, while US President Joe Biden arrived separately in a helicopter.

The leaders posed for the traditional summit family photo before the large “torii” gate of the Itsukushima Shrine. “Gagaku” music traditionally performed there was played as they listened to a briefing on the history of the shrine, which, according to its website, was established on the site in 593.

Their working dinner was held at Iwaso, an inn that dates back to 1854.

Itsukushima Shrine was registered by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as a World Cultural Heritage site in 1996.


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