It began with bilateral meetings between host Japan and G7 leaders who had just arrived in Hiroshima. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida‘s morning agenda included welcoming German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and French President Emmanuel Macron.
This was followed by the opening of the summit with all nine leaders of the Group of Seven advanced economies. Joining host country Japan’s prime minister and the aforementioned three leaders were United States President Joe Biden, Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. For the European Union, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and President of the European Council Charles Michel were also present.
Throughout the day, Japan’s PM Kishida chaired a sequence of bilateral talks and multilateral meetings with one key agenda item in mind: Ukraine.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy is Expected to Attend G7 Summit in Person
Around noon, foreign media began breaking the news that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy would be flying to Japan for the G7 Summit.
Invited as a guest by the host country Japan, the Ukrainian president was scheduled to address the G7 leaders online on May 19. Instead, he decided to appeal directly to them, in person on Sunday, May 21. He is expected to ask for further military aid as the war continues well into its second year. Ukraine is also currently engaging in a counteroffensive against Russia’s invasion.
In the weeks prior to the Hiroshima Summit, the Ukrainian president traveled through Europe visiting individual leaders in Italy, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
A trip to Japan would mark the first time Zelenskyy has visited Asia, however.
Details of the rumored visit are somewhat murky, partly due to security reasons. Still, local media have reported that should the trip materialize, the Kishida administration is expected to make sure he sees the remnants of the city’s atomic devastation. That means a visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and the museum.
Ukraine War is Top Element on the Agenda
For the G7 leaders, it was an afternoon marked by several sessions. But undoubtedly the most highly anticipated was that on the war in Ukraine.
On their part, the G7 leaders proceeded with their discussion despite Zelenskyy’s virtual absence. Their outcome included a flat-out condemnation of Russia’s behavior in their official statement for the day.
Friday’s Leaders’ Statement on Ukraine reads: “We condemn, in the strongest terms, Russia’s manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations (UN) and the impact of Russia’s war on the rest of the world.”
Strong words of encouragement were also added for Ukraine’s efforts in the war. “Our support for Ukraine will not waver. We will not tire in our commitment to mitigate the impact of Russia’s illegal actions on the rest of the world.”
Tackling the Problem of Sanctions
All of the leaders agreed on imposing further sanctions on Russia. However, the nature and details of this decision have yet to be announced.
In addition, the G7 leaders agreed to further “continue to work through the Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs (REPO) Task Force and the Enforcement Coordination Mechanism to enhance the effectiveness of our restrictive measures.”
One key discussion point regarding Russian sanctions has been ways in which Moscow can circumvent the measures by trading with countries such as China and India. The G7 measures are expected to tackle exactly this issue, although it’s still unclear in what way.
Leaders Pay Their Respects at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
The leaders also met with atomic bomb survivors, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.
Local media avidly covered the day’s activities as this is the first time G7 leaders have gathered together in Hiroshima.
When the rain lifted around noon, the nine leaders stood and placed a wreath of white flowers on the Hiroshima Memorial. This was the same location where, in 2016, then-US President Barack Obama paid his respects.
The Hiroshima Council of A-Bomb Sufferers Organizations held a press conference in the evening of May 19. Many of those present voiced their frustration that world leaders were in the museum only for 40 minutes, and spoke to just one atomic bomb survivor.
Association director, Kunihiko Sakuma, argued Japan should be doing more on the debate. “Japan is in a unique position as the only country that has suffered a nuclear attack,” he said. “If Japan can’t send a strong message to the world against nuclear weapons, who will? I think the government should be doing more to appeal to other countries.”
Other Highlights: Scenic Dinner Meeting, Security in the Indo-Pacific, and Nuclear Weapons
As the weather cleared, the leaders moved to another area of Hiroshima for the evening. One of the most coveted tourist spots in Hiroshima was selected for this part of their agenda: Miyajima.
Strict security has been in place on the island for the summit. And the leaders are expected to take pictures at the picturesque Itsukushima Shrine. It is already a popular Instagram spot as the Torii gate is located just off the coast of the island.
The leaders held a working dinner discussing security issues in the Indo-Pacific and nuclear weapons.Among the major points, the G7 leaders confirmed their condemnation of unilateral changes to the status quo.
PM Kishida also appealed to other countries that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Furthermore, they confirmed their individual and collective commitment to seek a world without nuclear weapons.
Fun Trivia of the Day
On social media, many netizens were happily noticing that UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was wearing red socks. Allegedly they are a tribute to the city’s baseball team, the Hiroshima Toyo Carps. Of course, Japan’s Prime Minister is reportedly a die-hard fan of his hometown’s team.
Another fun fact comes from looking at what the leaders were served during their working lunch. Was there a culinary culture that Japan was trying to promote?
Local delicacies such as sparkling sake, fish marinated using koji fermentation, and Hiroshima’s famous lemons were on the menu.
May 20: Attention Shifts to the Global South on Day 2
On May 19 the participating leaders were from G7 countries. Day two of the summit, however, will see the inclusion of countries that have been invited to Hiroshima as observers.
They are Australia, Brazil, Comoros (African Union chair), the Cook Islands (Pacific Islands Forum chair), Indonesia (ASEAN chair), South Korea, and Vietnam.
One key point of the second day’s discussion is expected to be food security. Another is how to tackle economic coercion from countries like China.
A key non-G7 item on the agenda for Saturday, May 20, is expected to be the Quad meeting between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States. That is set to happen in the evening.
Author: Arielle Busetto