GENEVA – Japanese student peace ambassadors will not deliver a speech at this year’s annual arms reduction conference in Geneva after calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons the past three years, a source close to the matter said Friday.
The Japanese government said it determined a speech would not be appropriate considering the agenda of this year’s meeting, but the source said the government was apparently concerned that a speech might refer to a recently adopted nuclear ban treaty that Japan did not join.
The group of 22 high school student peace ambassadors is scheduled to sit in on the annual arms reduction conference on Tuesday after visiting the United Nations Office at Geneva on Monday and Tuesday. But they are not planning to deliver a speech, unlike the past three years.
According to the source, a citizens group dispatching the ambassadors has asked the Foreign Ministry on whether their representative can speak at the conference, but a ministry official in charge of arms control responded, “It is difficult this time,” without giving details.
An official representing the Japanese government at the Geneva conference said, “It is not decided that a high school peace ambassadors’ speech must be given every year. We have judged it is not appropriate to have one considering the agenda at the arms reduction conference this year.”
This year’s arms reduction conference follows the adoption by 122 United Nations members of the world’s first treaty to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons.
But Japan refused to participate in the treaty, along with the world’s nuclear weapon states and other countries under the U.S. nuclear umbrella.
“The Japanese government was apparently concerned about (the students) mentioning the treaty, which it has clearly said it would not sign, in the speech,” the source said.
The Delegation of Japan to the Conference on Disarmament will hold a reception Monday hosted by Nobushige Takamizawa, Japanese ambassador of arms reduction, and invite high school student peace ambassadors, but they will not have an opportunity to voice their opinions.
The high school student peace ambassador program began in 1998 after two high school students in Nagasaki in southwestern Japan visited the United Nations headquarters in New York to bring signatures calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
The student ambassadors will be chosen by the citizens group mainly from the atomic-bombed cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as other parts of Japan. In recent years, they submit collected signatures to the United Nations every summer.
From 2014, a representative of the ambassadors delivered speeches for three consecutive years at the conference.