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EDITORIAL | Bad Call for Japan Not to Send Foreign Minister to G20 Meeting

Sending a deputy instead of Foreign Minister Hayashi to the G20 meeting weakens the initiative to halt Russia's aggression in Ukraine.



Commuters walk past a banner with Indian Prime Minister's Narendra Modi photograph welcoming delegates of G20 foreign ministers meeting, in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, March 1, 2023. (© AP / Manish Swarup)

Japan's Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi didn't attend the G20 foreign ministers' meeting in India on March 1-2. Instead, he placed a higher priority on the fiscal year 2023 budget deliberations in the National Diet, Japan's parliament. In his place the government sent Deputy Foreign Minister Kenji Yamada to New Delhi.

Both the government and the legislature showed poor judgment in this respect. The G20 foreign ministers' talks came at a key time when geopolitical tensions were being raised because of the  behaviors of despotic states, such as Russia and China.

Nevertheless it is an unpleasant surprise that the Cabinet member charged with conducting the country's diplomacy would miss such an important conference and instead prioritize parliamentary affairs. There is no other way to view this decision but as one that is detrimental to the national interest.

Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi at the House of Councilors Budget Committee in the afternoon of March 1, in the House of Councilors First Committee Room (© Sankei by Yasuhiro Yajima)

Misplaced Priorities

The House of Councillors, the Diet's upper chamber, held an interpellation session of the budget committee on March 1. In observance of parliamentary convention, all Cabinet members, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, attended. At that time the Liberal Democratic Party and opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan placed the priority on the budget deliberations. The government postponed Hayashi's dispatch to New Delhi for this reason.

In a news conference later on March 1, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the government had "pursued the possibility of Mr Hayashi's attendance" of the G20 meeting. But, he said, "had to comprehensively consider his schedule and official duties in Japan, including Diet affairs." 

That statement is totally incomprehensible. The government should have made greater efforts to persuade the Diet about the importance of the New Delhi meeting.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reads a video message at the G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting in New Delhi on March 2 (© Reuters)

Engaging the Voices of 'Middle Powers'

A disagreement between China and Russia and the G7 over Russia's invasion of Ukraine was brought sharply into focus just before the foreign ministers' talks in a meeting within the G20 framework of finance ministers and central bank governors. As chair of the G7 for 2023, Japan should have led the G20 discussions on this issue. 

Moreover, the G20 nations include "middle powers," such as Indonesia and South Africa, that have distanced themselves from the United States and European countries in their relations with Russia.

In order to immediately halt Russia's aggression, it is imperative to incorporate the "Global South" into a broad encirclement network against Moscow. Many of these developing countries, mainly in the southern hemisphere, are "middle powers" whose participation in such an effort would aid its success. 


Simultaneously, cooperating with India, which has traditionally maintained friendly ties with Russia, is also indispensable. In this sense, the G20 foreign ministers' meeting provided an excellent opportunity for Japan to assert its position and call for an encirclement of Russia. The judgment of the government and the Diet in losing the opportunity is in essence a failure to fulfill Japan's responsibility to the world.

Importance of Japan-India Ties

Prime Minister Kishida has repeatedly said Japan is "firmly resolved to make the May G7 summit in Hiroshima a success" that carries into the G20 summit in September. This way, he says, Japan can be "in a position to play a leading role in formulating a new order for peace and prosperity from Asia to the world." 

Mr Hayashi's absence from the G20 talks of top diplomats, however, risks dampening the cooperation between Japan and India. The wisdom of the Prime Minister and Mr Hayashi will also be in question. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)  

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun