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International relations

Kishida, Pope Francis agree to aim for abolishment of nuclear arms

Pope Francis gestures as he speaks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during a private audience at the Vatican, May 4. (Vatican Media via Reuters)

ROME (Kyodo) --  Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Pope Francis agreed Wednesday to aim for a world free of nuclear weapons as Russia's war against Ukraine poses a serious threat to global security.

The visit to the Vatican by the leader of the only country to suffer the devastation of atomic bombings came as Russian President Vladimir Putin has raised fears he may use nuclear weapons as the war drags on.

Kishida and Francis condemned the killing of civilians in Ukraine and agreed to step up efforts to bring back peace in the war-torn country, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.    

Francis was quoted by the Vatican as telling Kishida the use and possession of nuclear weapons is "inconceivable." The meeting was the first since 2014 between a Japanese prime minister and the pope at the Vatican.    

Francis has continued to be vocal about eliminating nuclear weapons, including through his 2019 addresses in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the two Japanese cities over which the United States detonated atomic bombs in World War II.    

The meeting took place ahead of Kishida's talks with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, during which Russia's invasion of Ukraine will also be a major agenda item, according to Japanese officials.    

Since Friday, Kishida has been on an eight-day tour of five countries in Southeast Asia and Europe. He is scheduled to hold talks with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday.    

The trip, which has also taken him to Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, comes in advance of the summit of the Group of Seven major developed countries to be held in Germany in June.    

With the two leaders of the European countries, which are part of the G-7, Kishida is likely to discuss their response to the war, including humanitarian aid for Ukraine and punitive measures against Russia, and North Korea, which again fired a ballistic missile on Wednesday in violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.    

Kishida is also seeking to strengthen cooperation toward a "free and open Indo-Pacific" region in the face of China's rising assertiveness in regional waters.

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