Chugoku Newspaper [5 August 2002] "LDP lawmaker speaks at Hiroshima antinuke confab"

August 5, 2002 12:00 AM

HIROSHIMA, Aug. 5 Kyodo - Taro Kono, a lawmaker from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), spoke on nuclear disarmament Saturday at an antinuclear gathering in Hiroshima, the first LDP lawmaker ever invited to deliver an address at the event.

''Would you please raise your hand if you believe nuclear weapons can be eliminated?'' Kono asked a gathering organized by the Japan Congress Against A and H Bombs (Gensuikin).

Kono, 37, the son of Foreign Minister Yohei Kono, calls himself the only LDP member who has spoken out against nuclear power plants.

After about half of the 300 people in the audience raised their hands, Kono said he thought a ''realistic'' target would be to urge the world to reduce the number of nuclear warheads to 1,000 for the time being.

''To be honest, I'm not confident the world can abolish nuclear weapons before I die. But I will do everything in my power toward that goal,'' he said.

Also speaking to the gathering was Toshio Sano, the chief of the Foreign Ministry's Arms Control and Disarmament Division. ''I expect antinuclear nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as Gensuikin to help us compile nuclear disarmament polici

Based on his experience at the United Nations, Sano suggested it would be ''dangerous'' to expect too much from the U.N. Security Council, where the nuclear powers have a veto.

''It is historic to meet an LDP member and a government official at such a gathering,'' said Masaru Nishida, the leader of a peace group.

Katsuya Okada of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan and Tetsuo Kaneko of the Social Democratic Party -- both parties back the congress -- also attended the meeting.

The congress has been holding a series of meetings since Friday in Hiroshima to commemorate the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It will wrap them up Wednesday in Nagasaki.