In Remembrance of Director General Yukiya Amano

July 22, 2019

It is with great sadness that I observe the passing of my friend, Yukiya Amano. Others are better able to comment on his enduring commitment and contribution to the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which he headed since 2009 and to which he dedicated a major part of his professional career. As he was an exceptionally private person, I want to respect that privacy, but also share a few insights into the man I knew.

I first became acquainted with Yukiya during the period he served as a member of the United Nations Expert Group on Disarmament and Nonproliferation Education. He had been tapped by the Japanese Foreign Ministry to be the Japanese government expert on the subject and was given assignments to study the issue at Harvard and then CNS. He was at the CNS office in Washington, DC, during 9/11, and recalled to me his shock and horror when he saw the plumes of smoke rising from the Pentagon after the attack. He spent much of the spring 2002 semester in Monterey, where he assisted me in teaching a negotiation simulation course on the NPT review process before he was recalled to Tokyo to head the Foreign Ministry’s Office of Disarmament, Non-Proliferation, and Science.

During our conversations in Monterey, in Hiroshima, at NPT review conference meetings —he chaired a particularly contentious Preparatory Committee meeting in Vienna in 2007—and during his tenure as IAEA director general, I always had the sense that he lived two very separate lives, one, the meticulously prepared and cautious government and international organization diplomat, and the other as an absolutely devoted husband to his wife, Yukika, a nurse and fantastic cook, whom he had met many years ago during an earlier illness. The private Amano loved opera, sailing with his brother, and horses. He and Yukika kept an aged horse at a stable quite distant from Vienna where they liked to escape—initially to ride the horse, but then as it became too old to ride, simply to spend time near the stable in an environment far removed from the pressures of the IAEA.

Yukiya rarely talked about his youth, but he shared one glimpse when he spoke to a 2012 meeting in Vienna of the Critical Issues Forum, a CNS-sponsored group of high school students from the United States, Russia, and Japan. Director General Amano reminisced about his own school experience and how the course he pursued in government had been influenced by the visit to his school of a Japanese diplomat. He recalled how the idea of government service became a personal goal and one that he pursued far beyond anyone’s expectations.

Both Director General Yukiya Amano the diplomat and Yukiya the dedicated family man, sailor, and opera-lover will be sorely missed by family, friends, and the international nonproliferation community.

–Bill Potter

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