Japan yesterday welcomed the choice of Yukiya Amano as the next head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), stressing that he comes from the only country to have been attacked by atom bombs.
The veteran Japanese diplomat won the contest in Vienna on Thursday to lead the UN nuclear watchdog, giving him a pivotal role in dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Amano, supported largely by industrialized nations, defeated South Africa’s Abdul Samad Minty in a sixth round of balloting after five inconclusive votes. It was his second try for the top job at the IAEA following an election stalemate in March.
He succeeds Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, who retires in November after 12 turbulent years.
“It is very significant that the head was selected from the only atomic-bombed country,” top government spokesman Takeo Kawamura told reporters, noting that Amano’s selection also boosted Japan’s international profile.
“We hope he will make the IAEA fully perform its role when nuclear disarmament is being called into question,” Kawamura said.
Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone said Japan would support Amano in various ways but stopped short of saying whether this would include financial aid to the body.
Japan suffered US atomic bomb attacks on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the closing days of World War II in August 1945. The nation surrendered a few days after the attacks.
Hiroshima Major Tadatoshi Akiba also welcomed Amano’s win.
“We have high hopes that he will work toward creating a concrete roadmap for abolishing nuclear weapons,” Akiba said in a statement.
Major Japanese newspapers ran the news of Amano on their front pages, and it was the top item on national TV news.
The Yomiuri, the nation’s top newspaper, focused on Amano’s longtime commitment to curb nuclear proliferation. He has expressed his determination to do all he can not to repeat the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Media reports said the selection of Amano showed the successful debunking of the view in some circles that Japan may pose a nuclear threat of its own.
There has been some skepticism over Tokyo’s vow to never make or own nuclear weapons, because of its widespread nuclear energy program and huge supplies of uranium and plutonium.