Responses from Philippe Setton, France Ambassador to Japan, to questions from Chugoku Shimbun in written interview

Q. What are your thoughts about the upcoming G7 summit meeting scheduled to be held in Hiroshima City?

I believe that holding this summit in this city that has suffered so much from the horrors of war is highly symbolic in the current situation, as the G7 partners strive to give their full support to Ukraine, which has been the victim of a brutal war of aggression for more than nine months now.

Q. Have you visited Hiroshima before? If so, when was your visit and what were your impressions at that time? Did you have a chance to meet hibakusha (A-bomb survivors)? Even if you have not yet visited Hiroshima, what are your general impressions of the city from your perspective now?

I had the opportunity to attend the peace ceremonies in Hiroshima this year on August 6th. I was struck by the strength and serenity of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and the Atomic Bomb Dome. This city that has been harshly hit by history and has turned its tragic fate into a vibrant call for world peace. It is also a city that has succeeded admirably in its reconstruction and is today resolutely turned towards the future even if it forgets nothing of its past. I was also particularly struck by the number of schoolchildren who visit the site: there is a strong educational dimension to visiting Hiroshima for them as for everyone.

Q. Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida has cited the crisis in Ukraine as the reason for the selection of Hiroshima as the venue for the G7 summit meeting. What is your view of the current situation in Ukraine? Also, how do you perceive Russia’s continued threats of nuclear weapons’ use? What kinds of discussions do you anticipate will take place at the G7 summit meeting to move closer to the goal of achieving world peace?

First of all, I want to stress the fact that France continues and will continue to stand at Ukraine’s side in the war of aggression that Russia has started last February 24, in blatant violation of international law. Our goal is that Ukraine recovers its full sovereignty and territorial integrity.

I will not dwell on Mr. Putin’s dangerous and irresponsible nuclear rhetoric which is at odds with the joint statement that Russia signed alongside with France, the United Kingdom, the United States and China last January in which all of our countries affirmed that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”. As for France, we stick to this responsible position and we call for all the countries possessing nuclear weapons to behave responsibly.

Japan’s Prime Minister made it clear that the issue of nuclear disarmament will be discussed during the coming G7 meeting of next May 2023 in Hiroshima. We look forward to those exchanges with our partners.

May I also say that other issues are important for international stability such as economic security, fight against climate change, global health and coordination to defend a rules-based international order. The Japanese presidency of the G7 will also be an opportunity to deepen our cooperation on those issue as well.

Q. Do you agree with the idea of “a world free of nuclear weapons”? If so, what challenges do you think France needs to overcome in order to move closer to that goal of a world without nuclear weapons?

Nuclear Disarmament is an important issue to deal with in order to move closer to the goal of achieving world peace. We agree with the idea and objective of a world free of nuclear weapons. Accordingly, France has subscribed to such an objective in the framework of the Non-proliferation treaty (NPT) which we consider is the cornerstone of the international architecture on disarmament.

France has already achieved a lot by reducing our nuclear arsenal, declaring a moratory on the production of missile material used for nuclear weapons, dismantling irreversibly our facilities to produce such material or signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). We continue our work responsibly, transparently and in coordination with our partners and we expect all the other States possessing nuclear weapons to act in the same direction. Only a collective and pragmatic approach to disarmament will allow to move closer to a world without nuclear weapons.

Q. The world’s increasing dependence on nuclear deterrence in reaction to the crisis in Ukraine has undergone some criticism. Does France intend to reduce its reliance on the concept of nuclear deterrence in its own security policy? Along those lines, what challenges do you think exist on the way toward France decreasing its reliance on nuclear deterrence?

A world free of nuclear weapons is a long term goal to which France subscribes, but we should be realistic in the way we come closer to achieving this goal: nuclear disarmament cannot be an objective per se, it makes sense only if it contributes to more stability and security worldwide. In this regard, France considers that its moral objective cannot be to disarm democracies when other autocratic powers would continue to possess and develop nuclear weapons. A unilateral disarmament would expose France and its partners to violence and nuclear blackmail by our enemies while forcing us to rely on others to ensure our security, which is not acceptable. In this context, we remain convinced that nuclear deterrence to purely defensive ends remains an essential component of the world’s security and stability, especially given the current state of the strategic context which is marked by ballistic proliferation (North Korea), new security challenges in the outer space or in the cyber space, and regional crisis (Taiwan Strait, Ukraine).

Besides, it would be illusionary to think that nuclear disarmament alone would be sufficient to achieve world peace and security. Such an effort must be part of a global and pragmatic approach of collective security which includes other commitments adopted by all countries, such as of conventional disarmament or the universal interdiction of biological and chemical weapons.

Q. What other issues would you like to see discussed at the G7 summit meeting? What kinds of debates do you foresee taking place at the meeting?

I think that the issue of financing for development should keep being addressed during this summit. To do so, we will have to discuss substantive issues to mobilize more private financing, in particular to finance the energy transition and the fight against climate change, and perhaps consider new mechanisms to finance development.

The G7 will also have to achieve results on food security, and the announcements of the Elmau summit will have to be translated into action. We have launched a very concrete roadmap on the subject with our FARM initiative, and a "Save Crops" operation for fertilizers. Beyond labels, I believe the priority is to support international organizations (WFP, IFAD) in implementing the solutions they propose to meet the needs of our fragile partners, particularly in Africa.

Energy will also be an important topic of discussion. The challenge here could be to start a balanced discussion between the issues of solidarity within the group and towards vulnerable countries and the objective of a fair energy transition on a global scale, which we must not back down from.

Finally, on digital-related topics, I believe we have a unique opportunity to develop within the G7 a real work on artificial intelligence, while Japan will have both the presidency of the G7 and the Global Partnership for AI (GPAI) that had been launched by France and Canada at the G7 in Biarritz in 2019.

Q. Finally, would you do us the favor of composing a simple message to the citizens of Hiroshima?

I would like to assure the citizens of Hiroshima that France is doing its utmost to ensure that the G7 summit to be held in their city will be worthy of the symbol it represents.

The creation of a safer and fairer international environment is one of the top priorities of my country's foreign policy, and the collaboration of France and Japan in multilateral forums such as the G7 is essential to bring us closer to this goal.