Bloc Must Take Lead in Shaping International Public Opinion / Accelerate Efforts for Nuclear Disarmament

If Japan, the United States and Europe, together with emerging countries, can express a common will that invasions will not be tolerated, it will be a powerful force in the international community.

The Group of Seven summit has opened in the city of Hiroshima. This is the seventh time a G7 summit has been held in Japan and the first time since 2016.

This time, a summit is being held with the world under the threat of nuclear weapons amid wartime.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was to visit Japan on Saturday to participate in the summit. It would be the first time Zelenskyy has traveled to Asia since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February last year.

Stop Russia from evading sanctions

Japan, which is chairing the summit, has an extremely important role to play in restoring international order.

After the first day of sessions, the G7 leaders compiled a statement on the Ukraine issue. The statement expressed a commitment to continue “financial, humanitarian and military support” to meet Ukraine’s requests, and “to increase the costs to Russia and those who are supporting its war efforts.”

To restore peace to Ukraine, it is essential that Russia’s war ability be reduced. It is necessary for the G7 to unite in persuading countries that are providing loopholes for Russia to evade the sanctions.

At the same time, solidarity with Ukraine must be expanded throughout the international community to bring about the withdrawal of Russian troops and the realization of a ceasefire.

The first such summit of major nations was held in 1975 to avert global economic turmoil and stabilize currencies, in the wake of the first oil crisis. The format has achieved several milestones.

Political issues were added to the agenda in 1980, following the invasion of Afghanistan by the former Soviet Union in 1979. After the collapse of the former Soviet Union, G8 summits involving Russia were held from 1997 to 2013.

Since 2000, it has become customary to invite such countries as emerging nations, and this year the leaders of India, Brazil and Comoros, the chair country of the African Union (AU), have been invited to Japan.

In recent years, the influence of developing and emerging countries collectively known as the Global South has become impossible to ignore.

At a U.N. General Assembly session in March last year, over 140 countries approved a resolution condemning Russia, but many emerging countries abstained. Historical colonial links might explain why many such countries distance themselves from the West.

At this year’s summit, cooperation with emerging countries is extremely important.

Cooperation with emerging nations

While diplomacy, military strength and economic power naturally have significant roles to play in the international community, the importance of shaping international public opinion must not be forgotten.

Japan has long supported many emerging economies through its official development assistance (ODA) and other means. Building good relationships with such countries is one of Japan’s strengths. If anyone can appeal to emerging economies about the importance of the rule of law and serve as a bridge between emerging countries and the West, it is Japan.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida needs to recognize this matter and lead discussions. He should use this opportunity to demonstrate international unity against acts of aggression, and stress that emerging countries may not remain unharmed if they overlook the fact that a major power could take territory by force.

Kishida took the G7 leaders to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which exhibits materials on the damage caused by the atomic bombing on that city.

It was the first time the leaders of the seven nations together have visited a facility that conveys the reality of the atomic bombing. The leaders must have recognized how cruel the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons could be.

The situation regarding nuclear weapons is critical. At the start of the year, Russia suspended its participation in the New START, a nuclear disarmament framework between the United States and Russia. China has also increased the number of nuclear warheads in its arsenal and North Korea’s nuclear development and repeated missile launches are major threats, too.

Amid this harsh reality, indispensable for allies such as Japan is the “nuclear umbrella,” with which the United States protects its allies through its military strength, including its nuclear capability.

It is a realistic approach to pursue nuclear disarmament in stages, taking the security environment into account. Japan should advocate the establishment of a new framework for disarmament that includes the United States, Russia and China.

Urgent need for AI rules

Another major summit issue is the regulation of generative artificial intelligence. The technology is attracting attention for its convenience, but the casual use of such systems might degrade people’s ability to think.

The international community has established rules to respond to technological developments concerning human dignity and ethics.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and disarmament frameworks are in place to deal with nuclear development. The use of technology to clone humans is prohibited by law worldwide, based on a UNESCO declaration and other regulations.

The impact of generative AI on society should not be underestimated. It is an urgent task to establish international rules.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 20, 2023)