A World Still with Nuclear Weapons
By Takuya Nishimura, Editorial Writer, The Hokkaido Shimbun
The views expressed by the author are his own and are not associated with The Hokkaido Shimbun
May 22, 2023
As the chair of the Group of Seven (G7) Hiroshima Summit, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stated that he would use the summit to pave the way to “a world without nuclear weapons.” Although the Leaders’ Communiqué did include those specific words, the G7 leaders did not provide a way to implement of this goal. This leaves one wondering what Kishida did achieve with this high-profile international engagement.
The document for nuclear disarmament, called the Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament, was issued a day before the Communiqué. It unequivocally declared the indispensability of nuclear weapons in the context of nuclear deterrence. The G7 thus continue to contemplate a world where nuclear weapons still exist. Those who suffered the nuclear bombs, or the Hibakusha, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were deeply disappointed by how ineffective Kishida had been.
While underscoring the importance of the 77-year record of non-use of nuclear weapons, the Hiroshima Vision firmly accuses Russia of its “irresponsible nuclear rhetoric, undermining of arms control regimes, and stated intent to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus.” With these and other strong words denouncing Russia’s rhetoric, the Vision statement follows: “Our security policies are based on the understanding that nuclear weapons, for as long as they exist, should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression and prevent wars and coercion.”
This document, made under the leadership of Kishida, conditionally recognized the role of nuclear weapons without showing any clear roadmap to the world without nuclear weapons. The G7 fundamentally reject the work of Hibakushas. Coming through hardships of losing loved ones, being threatened by the fear of cancer, or discrimination from the fellow citizens, Hibakushas define nuclear weapons as “absolute evil” that kill too many people immediately. Their use can never be justified.
The Hiroshima Vision ironically justifies nuclear weapons as a countermeasure to Russian aggression in Ukraine and nuclear saber-rattling. Thus, to 91-year-old atomic bomb survivor, Setsuko Thurlow, the G7 Summit was a “huge failure,” as stated in her press conference on Sunday, May 21. The International Campaign to Abolish NuclearWeapons (ICAN), the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize winner, stated that the G7 fell “far short of providing any meaningful outcomes for nuclear disarmament.”
Mostly ignoring the backlash from the Hibakushas, Kishida said at his post-summit press conference that he was satisfied with the outcome of the G7 Hiroshima Summit. “We shared an ideal for the future of the world without a nuclear weapon.” Recognizing appeals from nuclear-suffered cities, Kishida considers Hiroshima Vision the basis for future actions to attain a world without nuclear weapons. Kishida viewed the visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Hiroshima as a chance to deliver further a message against threats to use nuclear weapons.
Although the G7 Summit was a stage to show that the G7 leaders stand together with Zelenskyy and to condemn Russia for its aggression against international law and order, inviting the Ukrainian president at war nevertheless was questionable. Hiroshima’s significance is as a place once devastated by a nuclear weapon and of the Hiroshima people’s hope for unconditional peace, not war at any cost.
After laying flowers at the cenotaph to A-bomb victims, Zelenskyy reflected that “Photographs of ruins of Hiroshima absolutely remind me of Bakhmut and other similar settlements.” For the people in Hiroshima who believe in the principle of “war is not the answer,” the sympathetic comment of Zelenskyy might have brought a sense of discomfort to them.
Obviously, Zelenskyy’s purpose in visiting Hiroshima was to continue and win the war with as much support as possible from the G7. U.S. President Joe Biden told Zelenskyy that the US would start training Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets. In a bilateral meeting with Zelenskyy, Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who is regarded as a key for anti-Russia groups to reach the countries called “global south,” conveyed his clear support for dialogue and diplomacy to find a way forward. Hiroshima had become the place where world leaders were seen deeply engaged in Ukraine’s war strategy.
For Kishida who has been promoting his positive pro-active security policies, the appearance of the Ukrainian president must have been a good opportunity to trumpet the “success” of policies to domestic audiences. In the meeting with Zelenskyy, Kishida pledged Japanese assistance by sending trucks and provisions and accepting injured Ukrainian military personnel in the Self-Defense Forces Central Hospital in Tokyo. The Kishida administration is likely to insist that current budget request for security measures or positive involvement in maintaining world order has been necessary.
In terms of dealing with China’s advances in Asia-Pacific region, the G7 summit produced some positive outcomes. Zelenskyy’s attendance reinforced the ties of democratic nations. In the outreach meeting attended by the G7 leaders, eight guests and Zelenskyy, Kishida stressed that coercive and unilateral change of status quo would not be tolerated anywhere in the world. It is necessary, he said, to protect free and open world order based on the rule of law.
The G7 Leaders’ Communiqué, in contrast to its message to Russia, was toward China, calling on engagement with G7 and recommending “de-risking” for economic resilience instead of decoupling from China. Yet, the leaders of four major powers in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan, United States, India, and Australia (meeting as the quadrilateral security dialog or QUAD), also issued a statement that opposed “destabilizing or unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo by force or coercion,” a suggestion that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would be unacceptable.
Inevitably, Japan will have to deal with further pressure from China. Kishida’s inability to make progress on nuclear disarmament among his peers at the G7 Summit does not engender much confidence on how well he can pursue this. To date, Kishida has yet to offer a concrete vision for a meaningful dialogue with China. By following along with the G7's support of Ukraine and deterrence, Kishida set aside Japan's priority to stabilize the situation in Northeast Asia. China reacted against the G7 Communique with "strong dissatisfaction." It is possible that Kishida has raised the tension in Northeast Asia by introducing the structure of hostility in the Eastern Europe.