As leaders of the Group of Seven richest democracies kick off their summit Friday in Hiroshima, Japan, with a visit to the city’s Peace Memorial – a massive outdoor monument that captures the devastation caused by the atomic bomb – they pledged their commitment to “achieving a world without nuclear weapons with undiminished security for all.”
The leaders met a bomb survivor and laid wreaths at a cenotaph honoring the victims, in sight of the Genbaku Dome, the only structure left standing following the attack by U.S. forces in August 1945 that killed 140,000 people by the end of the year.
The first G-7 leaders’ document focusing on nuclear disarmament calls out Russia for its “irresponsible nuclear rhetoric, undermining of arms control regimes, and stated intent to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus,” and China for “accelerating build-up of its nuclear arsenal without transparency.”
The leaders reaffirm their goal toward a “complete, verifiable, and irreversible abandonment” of North Korean nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. They urge Iran to “cease its nuclear escalation.”
Adding to the urgency of disarmament and the somber backdrop, the presence of a leader who personifies the threat of World War III. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will be attending the G-7 summit in person on Sunday, a Ukrainian official confirmed.
Summit host Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, whose family is from Hiroshima, chose the venue to highlight the dangers of nuclear weapons amid North Korean ballistic missile tests, Iran’s accelerating uranium enrichment activities, China’s rapid military buildup and Russia’s threat to deploy tactical nuclear weapons.
“I believe the first step toward any nuclear disarmament effort is to provide a first-hand experience of the consequences of the atomic bombing and to firmly convey the reality,” Kishida said prior to the summit.
Ahead of the summit, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged G-7 leaders to adopt a nuclear weapon no-use policy and for nuclear weapons states to declare they will not use them “in any circumstance” — an unlikely prospect, amid heightened tensions involving nuclear powers.
Under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the United States, Russia, France, China and the United Kingdom are defined as nuclear weapons states — those that have built and tested a nuclear explosive device before January 1, 1967. India, Pakistan, and North Korea have declared they possess nuclear weapons, while Israel is believed to own them.
Nuclear disarmament is a challenging thread for Kishida to weave amid Tokyo’s desire for stronger U.S. deterrence. In their meeting Thursday, Biden reaffirmed to Kishida Washington’s “extended deterrence commitment using the full range of U.S. capabilities.”
Those capabilities include nuclear weapons, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told VOA on Friday.
While Biden wants to abide by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Kirby said, it is important that the U.S. nuclear umbrella benefiting treaty allies, including Japan and South Korea, remains in place, credible, and modernized.
Kirby would not confirm whether the administration intends to broaden a nuclear deterrence deal it signed in April with Seoul, to include Tokyo.
The deal, called simply the Washington Declaration, affirms that Seoul would not pursue its own nuclear weapons program in return for a more muscular U.S. presence in the region and a greater decision-making role in U.S. contingency planning in the event of a North Korean nuclear attack.
“Similar logic can also apply to Japan,” said Ken Jimbo, former adviser to Japan’s Defense Ministry who now teaches at Keio University, pointing to greater security challenges facing the country.
While Japan and the U.S. want global disarmament to be the ultimate goal, Jimbo told VOA, strengthening nuclear extended deterrence in the region is an important priority for both.
Biden, Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol are planning to meet on the sidelines of the summit. South Korea is not part of the G-7 but has been invited by Japan to discuss common concerns, including Pyongyang’s nuclear threat.
Given Japan’s push for disarmament at the summit, however, it’s unlikely an extension of the Washington Declaration will be raised in Hiroshima, said Sheila Smith, a Council on Foreign Relations expert on Japanese foreign policy.
“A more realistic expectation is that President Yoon, President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida were going to talk about integrated missile radar systems and a more practical, pragmatic agenda for trilateral security cooperation,” Smith told VOA.
She noted that a continued momentum of improvement in the trilateral relationship would also be a very good political signal to Beijing that it can’t divide U.S. allies in the region.
Source: Voice of America