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EDITORIAL | After G7 Hiroshima Summit, Take Nuclear Deterrence Seriously

G7 Hiroshima Summit leaders must face current regional security realities and discuss nuclear deterrence, not just the laudable goal of ending nuclear weapons.

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G7 leaders are joined by representatives of invited guest countries for a "family" photo during the G7 Hiroshima summit. Present are Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Secretary-General Mathias Cormann, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Indonesia's President Joko Widodo, Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Comoros' President Azali Assoumani, Cook Islands' Prime Minister Mark Brown, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director Fatih Birol, World Bank President David Malpass, Vietnam's Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol, Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala pose for a photograph during a wreath-laying ceremony in the Peace Memorial Park as a part of the G7 leaders' summit in Hiroshima, western Japan May 21, 2023, (© Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan/HANDOUT via REUTERS)

On the first day of the G7 Hiroshima Summit, the leaders visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in the city's Peace Memorial Park and met with A-bomb survivors. They then joined together to lay flower wreaths at the Memorial Cenotaph.

During the final days of World War II, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This resulted in many deaths and injuries. Survivors who were exposed to the radiation emitted by the bombs, known as hibakusha, are still suffering today. 

At the urging of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the G7 leaders visited in person exhibits that graphically show the reality of the terrible devastation caused by the A-bomb and mourned its victims. It is very meaningful that leaders from the United States, the United Kingdom, and France — all nuclear powers — were among them. 

G7 leaders listen to an explanation of the history of the city's devastation and rebirth from Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui at Peace Memorial Park = May 19 afternoon, Naka Ward, Hiroshima City (Pool photo)

The Hiroshima Declaration

Prior to the start of the summit, Prime Minister Kishida said: "The momentum toward the ideal of a 'world without nuclear weapons' is receding. I would like it (the summit) to become a turning point for its resurgence."

The summit has now released a special leaders' agreement of May 19, "Hiroshima Declaration." In approving it, the G7 parties committed to working towards its ideal. 

The leaders' small and large group visits to the Hiroshima Peace Park and memorial museum, and the May 20th Hiroshima Communique, have been welcomed both domestically and internationally. 

However, these alone are not enough. That is because they might distract us from the reality that a nuclear deterrent posture must be in place if we are to avoid nuclear catastrophe. 

Precisely because it is the G7 "Hiroshima Summit," the importance of nuclear deterrence should have been properly discussed.

predictions tactical nuclear weapons ICBM South Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his daughter at a test-fire of the country's new Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). November 27, 2022 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency. The photo has not been independently verified. (© KCNA via Reuters)

Safeguarding the People by Nuclear Deterrence 

Even while pursuing his ultimate ideal, Prime Minister Kishida needs to honestly explain to the Japanese people that nuclear deterrence is necessary in the current international environment. Otherwise, understanding of the urgent need to address the very real threats posed by nuclear weapons will not spread among the public.

Nuclear threats from neighboring countries are growing. And the question has become how Japan can enhance its nuclear deterrence capabilities sufficiently to be able to safeguard the nation and its people. That includes the US nuclear umbrella.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy personal attendance as a guest of the summi is also clear to the world. Meanwhile, the man who invaded his country, Russian President Vladimir Putin, has repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons. 

The regime in North Korea has acted in a similar reckless fashion. Leaders of nuclear-armed despotic states are not about to lend an ear any time soon to the G7's talk of the ideal of abolishing nuclear weapons.

The level of science and technology attained by human beings to date is far from that required to reliably intercept a nuclear missile attack. Moreover, even if all the nuclear powers abolished their nuclear weapons, if a nation or group of nations went and secretly built nuclear weapons, it would all have been for nothing. 

Leaders of the United States, Japan and South Korea met on the sidelines of the G7 Summit.

Importance of Alliances for Deterrence

With these factors in mind, it is clear that, in order to be able to counter the threat of nuclear weapons, Japan must adopt a nuclear deterrent posture. This can happen either with Japan's own weapons or with the nuclear arms of allies. That is why the existence of the US-Japan alliance, the US-South Korea alliance, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is so important. 

Nuclear weapons also play a role in deterring the use of other weapons of mass destruction. For example, those in the form of biological and chemical weapons.

China, Russia, and North Korea are eager to bolster their nuclear capabilities. The summit is over now. Hopefully, however, Prime Minister Kishida will squarely face the severe security environment facing Japan. And hopefully he will take meaningful measures to protect the people from nuclear threats.

US President Joe Biden, Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi hold a Quad meeting on the sidelines of the G7 summit, at the Grand Prince Hotel in Hiroshima, Japan, May 20, 2023. (© REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Pool)

Read more about the G7 Hiroshima Summit on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and here on JAPAN Forward.

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(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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