U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made headlines on Monday for being the highest ranking U.S. official to visit the Hiroshima Peace Park in Japan, after which he and other world leaders issued a call for a "world without nuclear weapons."
But the historic visit comes amid a massive nuclear weapons build-up within the United States, and non-proliferation advocates are calling out Kerry's "nuclear hypocrisy."
Kerry was joined by other ministers of the Group of 7 (G7) as he "placed a wreath of white flowers at a monument in the city’s peace memorial park," Bloomberg reports, before the group toured the peace museum.
The museum features graphic images of the aftermath of the August 6, 1945 bombing, which killed roughly 140,000 either during detonation or from severe radiation exposure. Three days later, the United States dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki, killing an additional 74,000 people.
"It is a stark, harsh, compelling reminder not only of our obligation to end the threat of nuclear weapons, but to rededicate all our effort to avoid war itself," Kerry wrote in the museum's guest book.
Afterwards, the G7 nations issued a "Hiroshima Declaration," reaffirming their "commitment to seeking a safer world for all and to creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons in a way that promotes international stability," citing the "deteriorating security environment" in Syria, Ukraine, and North Korea as catalysts.
The Washington D.C. Hiroshima/Nagasaki Peace Committee issued a statement on Monday saying that while they "applaud" Kerry's visit, the group is concerned that this visit "may be used as cover."
"The actual context is that the U.S. is engaged in an unprecedented nuclear build up," the statement continues, citing the Obama administration's $1 trillion plan to "modernize" its nuclear weapons arsenal, which includes creating smaller, "more useable" weapons.
"Such visits cannot be allowed to act as a fig leaf for such threatening policies. The Obama administration has clearly turned its back on its stated goal of abolishing nuclear weapons," added the group, which is dedicated to honoring the memory of those lost by working to eradicate nuclear weapons worldwide. "We cannot allow choreographed, purely symbolic gestures to obscure continuing U.S. government policies which pose a grave threat to humanity."
According to the nonpartisan Washington D.C.-based Arms Control Association, the United States currently holds an estimated 7,100 nuclear warheads.
Bruce Gagnon, activist and coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, on Monday described Kerry's trip as a "false pilgrimage," noting that the visit comes "at the very same moment that the Pentagon is building new generations of nuclear weapons and deploying 'missile defense' systems throughout Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Guam, Philippines and in other countries in the Asia-Pacific."
Indeed, the G7 summit, which included ministers from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the U.S, comes less than two weeks after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe oversaw constitutional revisions that struck down the country's decades-long commitment to pacifism under the guise of supporting the United States and other allies.