In a first by a US secretary of state, John Kerry arrived in Hiroshima, which America bombed in 1945, overshadowing the broader agenda of his visit — the G7 foreign ministers’ two-day meet which began on Sunday.
Kerry’s landmark trip is seen as possibly paving the way for Barack Obama to become the first serving US 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.