Editorial: Hiroshima City selected as venue for G7 summit to deliberate ridding world of nuclear weapons

We welcome Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s selection of Hiroshima City as the venue for holding the 2023 summit meeting of the G7 (attended by the Group of Seven industrialized nations), which Japan will host for the first time in seven years. The prime minister informed U.S. president Joe Biden of the plan during the Japan-U.S. summit meeting yesterday and confirmed that the two nations would work together to hold a successful meeting.

In addition to the United States, the nuclear superpower that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan, all the other G7 nations, including the nuclear powers Britain and France, are said to also have approved the plan. The current leaders of those two nuclear nations will visit the A-bombed city for the first time, following the visit made by then U.S. President Barack Obama in 2016.

Historical significance

Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken openly about his country’s possible use of nuclear weapons after it launched its invasion of Ukraine. The global situation surrounding nuclear weapons has grown increasingly fraught as North Korea accelerates its development of nuclear arms and ballistic missiles and China enhances its nuclear capability with a view to altering Taiwan’s current status.

The fact that the G7 leaders will meet in the A-bombed city of Hiroshima and renew their vow for peace is of great historical significance. That sentiment was symbolized in the prime minister’s words at a news conference held after the bilateral meeting. “There is no better place than Hiroshima to show our commitment to peace. We will pledge to the world that the horror caused by nuclear weapons should never be repeated,” he said.

President Biden’s language gave one the sense that he welcomed having the G7 summit in Mr. Kishida’s home of Hiroshima. There is no doubt that the venue was selected at the urging of the prime minister, a member of the House of Representatives representing Hiroshima Prefecture’s District No. 1 who has declared his lifework to be the attainment of a “world without nuclear weapons.” It is hard to believe, however, that he is serving only his own interests.

Whoever happens to be serving in the role as Japan’s prime minister, the significance of a message sent from the A-bombed city will not change. We hope Mr. Kishida continues explaining in detail to people in Japan and overseas why Hiroshima was selected as the meeting venue, with the aim of enhancing momentum in advance of the G7 summit meeting.

Hosting the summit, which has long been a goal of the A-bombed city, is part of a trend of visits to Hiroshima by overseas dignitaries starting in the 2000s.

In 2008, for instance, the G8 Summit of Lower House Speakers representing eight nations, which in those days included Russia, was held in Hiroshima. In 2016, Hiroshima hosted the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, which was followed by Mr. Obama’s quick visit to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park after the G7 Ise-Shima Summit. He delivered a speech at Peace Memorial Park expressing his determination to realize a world without nuclear weapons. In 2019, after paying a visit to Nagasaki, Pope Francis traveled to Hiroshima and called for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Dependence on “nuclear umbrella”

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) took effect amid the recent growing consciousness about the A-bombed cities in the international community. However, the world’s nuclear weapon states as well as the A-bombed nation of Japan have yet to ratify the treaty. Amid Russia’s recent threats regarding the use of nuclear weapons, the short-sighted opinion expressed among some that self-defense is impossible without nuclear weapons is gaining momentum. Headwinds can be said to now be blowing against the movement for nuclear disarmament.

The decision to invite the summit to Hiroshima is good news for the A-bombed city, but the harsh reality that lies before the international community should not be forgotten. At the present time, it is difficult to say that the meeting in Hiroshima will have a direct effect on realizing the abolition of nuclear weapons.

The Japan-U.S. summit and the resulting joint statement was a perfect example. In addition to tightening sanctions on Russia, the two leaders announced the strengthening of their policy of “extended deterrence” with regard to policies toward China and North Korea, including the “nuclear umbrella” on which the Japanese government continues to rely.

Mr. Biden, who served as vice president during the Obama administration, has not abandoned his future goal of eliminating nuclear weapons. At the news conference, Prime Minister Kishida added that they had “agreed to work together toward a world free from nuclear weapons.” But not announced was a concrete path toward reduction of nuclear arsenals under the confrontational structure known as the ‘new Cold War.’

Listen to voices of A-bomb survivors

The global situation one year from now, when the G7 summit is to be held in Hiroshima, is difficult to predict at this point in time. If the tensions that are now experienced persist, the meeting could be used to promote the idea of nuclear deterrence rather than to provide the opportunity to debate the abolition of nuclear weapons.

What would happen if nuclear weapons were to be used? The summit in Hiroshima should provide G7 leaders with the opportunity to confront the inhumane reality and intuit the senselessness of the concept of nuclear deterrence. We hope they can spend sufficient time in Peace Memorial Park, carefully take in the exhibits in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, and listen to the stories told by A-bomb survivors. Preparations for such an opportunity should be undertaken immediately.

(Originally published on May 24, 2022)