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Politics

Abe picks Mie over Hiroshima for 2016 meeting

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Ise-Shima is home to the traditional Shinto site Ise Grand Shrine.   © Kyodo

TOKYO -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Friday that next year's Group of Seven summit will take place in Mie Prefecture, southwest of Nagoya.

      Mie, home to the traditional Shinto site Ise Grand Shrine, "will let the world leaders get a feel for Japan's beautiful nature, rich culture and traditions," Abe told reporters at Tokyo's Haneda airport before leaving for Ukraine and then Germany, where he will attend this year's G-7 summit.  The Ise-Shima area often welcomes the royal family and the prime minister, so the local police have ample experience in security for high-profile visitors.

     Geographical advantages were also a factor. The area's proximity to Chubu International Airport makes it possible for summit participants to reach the venue in helicopters, and Kashikojima island -- slated to be the main site -- is reached from land by only two bridges, making access restrictions easy.

     In fact, Mie was the last to step forward among eight candidate localities. Prefectural Gov. Eikei Suzuki initially sought to host minister-level meetings and not the summit. But Abe strongly suggested that Mie be considered when he visited the Ise Shrine this past January.

Mie vs. Hiroshima

Hiroshima was another key candidate, as Abe sought to send a political message in selecting a venue. The 2016 summit will coincide with the upper house election period, so whether he can take advantage of the occasion to garner public support is a key consideration for Abe.

     With this year marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, he apparently wanted to host the summit in Hiroshima, where the atomic bomb was dropped, along with Nagasaki, thereby sending a message for the abolition of nuclear weapons. 

     At the review conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty held in New York last month, Japan tried to incorporate in the conference text that world leaders should be encouraged to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This did not materialize amid opposition from China.

     A Hiroshima summit would have given Abe another opportunity. Due to reservations from other countries such as the U.S., however, Mie was picked instead.  

     Besides Hiroshima and Mie, Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture and Kobe in Hyogo Prefecture were also contenders. By late May, Abe had apparently narrowed the choice to Hiroshima or Mie.

     Abe and his G-7 counterparts are meeting in Germany for this year's summit on Sunday and Monday. The Japanese government will soon set up a task force to prepare for next year's event.

 (Nikkei)

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