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Japan, Vatican partners in realizing nuclear weapons-free world, Abe tells pope

Japan and the Vatican are "partners" in realizing a world free of nuclear weapons, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday as he received Pope Francis.
Abe expressed his resolve to achieve the goal as Japan is the only nation to have suffered atomic bombings, a day after the pope delivered his message in the atomic-bombed cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima that nuclear weapons must be eliminated.
"Japan and the Vatican are partners in realizing peace and a world free of nuclear weapons, eliminating poverty, and recognizing the importance of human rights and the environment," Abe told the pope at the prime minister's office.
"It is my hope that your visit will expand cooperation with the Vatican," he said.
Earlier in the day, the pope met with survivors of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that sparked the Fukushima nuclear crisis, the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, and held a mass at Tokyo Dome attended by about 50,000 Catholic adherents.
During the 25-minute meeting with Abe, the pope backed the prime minister's efforts toward resolving the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s, the Foreign Ministry said.
The 82-year-old pontiff's visit came roughly five years after Abe asked him to visit Japan during a 2014 meeting in Vatican City.
The pope, who opposes the use and possession of nuclear weapons, reiterated his message Monday in a meeting with government officials and members of the diplomatic corps in Tokyo.
"History teaches us that conflicts and misunderstandings between peoples and nations can find valid solutions only through dialogue, the only weapon worthy of man and capable of ensuring lasting peace," the pope said.
"I am convinced of the need to deal with the nuclear question on the multilateral plane, promoting a political and institutional process capable of creating a broader international consensus and action."
Japan does not possess nuclear weapons but relies on the deterrence of the U.S. nuclear umbrella, an approach described Monday by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga as "realistic." The pope rejects the idea of nuclear deterrence.
In his meeting with the pope, Abe said Japan will seek to serve as a "bridge" between nuclear weapons states and non-nuclear weapons states, and promote dialogue.
Concerns have grown about a nuclear arms race as the United States has pulled out of a Cold War-era treaty with Russia. The United States, China and Russia are among the major nuclear powers that have not joined a U.N. treaty to ban nuclear weapons, while Japan has also stayed out.
The pope used his speech at the prime minister's office to stress the importance of confronting the gap between rich and poor, and pursuing solidarity that goes beyond national borders on occasions such as the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next year.
"We know that, in the end, the civility of every nation or people is measured not by its economic strength, but by the attention it devotes to those in need and its capacity to be fruitful and promote life," the pope said.


© KYODO
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