As leader of the Group of Seven (G-7) this year, Japan is hosting the summit in Hiroshima on May 19-20. In addition to the seven members of the grouping of advanced economies, which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, present at the Hiroshima meeting will be South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Comoros, Cook Island, Australia, and Brazil.
G-7 meetings make the headlines worldwide because the world’s richest countries discuss global trends and emerging global crises. Since the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded in 2020, the world has been thrown new challenges that have laid bare the vulnerability of countries to the unpreparedness of their health sectors or the disruption of supply chains. Russia’s aggression on Ukraine has shaken the fundamentals of the liberal order.
This G-7 is therefore being described as complicated, as it will have to address not only the reality of Russia’s invasion and growing concerns over China’s assertiveness but also the global challenges of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and denuclearization.
In a speech following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio observed, “If we let this (Russia’s invasion of Ukraine) unilateral change of the status quo by force go unchallenged, it will happen elsewhere in the world, including Asia.” Since then, Kishida has directed his energy to make the world recognize the looming crisis in the Taiwan Strait.
Since there is a strong presence of European countries in the G-7, more decisive actions against Russia and how to end the Ukraine crisis will take center stage at the Hiroshima summit.
In his message in the run-up to the summit, Kishida said, “The G-7 firmly rejects any unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force or the threat or use of nuclear weapons.” This is the first item on his agenda. Underlying this is the concern about China’s aggressive behavior in the Indo-Pacific and the nuclearization of North Korea.
The realization of the importance of the Global South to containing China either economically or otherwise, necessitated inviting important representatives of this bloc. The development concerns of most nations of the Global South are in sync with the U.N. agenda. Outreach to the Global South is the other item on Kishida’s agenda. It weaves in more significant world concerns about SDGs and climate change, among many others.
As the sole representative of Asia in the G-7 and in a leadership position this year, Japan is responsible for placing Asian concerns on the table. Kishida has put together a guest list that brings diversity and differing views. Guests will observe and engage on the sidelines with the G-7 countries, impacting the group’s decisions.
The eight guests at Hiroshima have the potential to influence G-7 members and play a significant role in addressing the agendas. Deep diving into the guest list reflects the diplomatic craftiness with which Japan has acted to bring weight into the forum and enable G-7 to demonstrate strong determination for a “united front in dealing with the Ukraine issue.”
South Korea is Japan’s nearest neighbor. Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol have developed a rapport. South Korea is part of the U.S. alliance and faces the threat of North Korea’s nuclear program. Moreover, Yoon recently formulated an Indo-Pacific policy. The inclusion of South Korea will help Japan frame better economic coercion against China and further the cause of denuclearization.
Vietnam is a challenge for Japan as it is a strong trading partner of China. However, the recent rekindled maritime dispute with China has made Vietnam cautious. Therefore, wooing Vietnam has significance to the securitization of the seas.
Indonesia’s importance rests on its strategic location, resources, and Japan’s substantial investment through its aid program. Moreover, its neutrality is critical for maintaining a regional balance. Further, as this year’s chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Indonesia President Joko Widodo represents a large, diverse community whose vote is crucial for maintaining regional stability.
India leads the G-20 this year and has ambitions of placing concerns of the Global South in various forums. Since an outreach to the Global South is part of the G-7 discussion, India is an automatic choice. India-Japan relations have traversed a momentous trajectory, entrenching both strategic and economic components. India and Japan coordinate and collaborate in military exercises. Japan has a significant presence in infrastructure development in India, and much of its aid assistance is linked to India’s economic policies. The strength of this relationship and its membership in Quad gives it more acceptability.
Comoros is chairing the African Union and will represent that grouping at the G-7’s Hiroshima summit. The Indo-Pacific theater encompasses a large mass of land and seas that includes Africa. Africa is important especially because of China’s dominance in this continent through its huge investments. Further, Africa is a significant part of the Global South, and their presence is vital to take forward the larger agenda of G-7.
Additionally, China is making its way into the Pacific islands. Therefore, Japan is courting the Pacific Island Forum. With the Cook Islands leading the Pacific Island Forum this year, its presence completes the geo-location within the Indo-Pacific.
Since the pandemic, Australia has upped its game in engaging the Indo-Pacific region. With AUKUS, it has entrenched and committed to providing security to this region. In recent times, Japan-Australia relations have deepened significantly. A new agreement covering military, intelligence, and cybersecurity aims to augment security to counter China’s assertiveness. As a part of alliance architecture, Australia’s presence at Hiroshima will add weight to the G-7 agenda.
Brazil’s presence at Hiroshima will draw attention to Latin America. Brazil is part of BRICS, in which China is a key player. Further, it will take over the G-20 leadership from India in 2024. Understanding Brazil’s viewpoints could help determine strategies for countering Russia and China. Having two economically vibrant countries, namely India and Brazil, on board can help undermine BRICS.
All these guests have complex domestic politics, and different approaches to the Ukraine crisis. Their positions on China too vary considerably. Since Russia and China are two main targets of the G-7, the presence of each of the countries attending as guests at Hiroshima will enable the informal bloc to make more constructive decisions and have a larger global reach.
In the leadership role, Kishida has had the foresight to use this platform to not only address Russia’s invasion but also promote the larger cause of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.