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[Speaking Out] Was the G7 Hiroshima Summit Really a Success?

The G7 Hiroshima summit has been touted as a success. But Japan still only supplies non-lethal weapons to Ukraine and its defense spending falls short.



Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, pose for a photo after laying a wreath in front of the Cenotaph for the Victims of the Atomic Bomb at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, after Zelenskyy was invited to the Group of Seven nations' summit in Hiroshima, Japan, May 21, 2023. The Atomic Bomb Dome is seen in the background. (© Eugene Hoshiko/Pool via REUTERS)

According to Japanese mass media, the G7 Hiroshima summit renewed the determination to realize a "world without nuclear weapons" and reaffirmed the "commitment to peace" in Hiroshima. But these are just empty rhetoric. 

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's surprise visit to Hiroshima raised a crucial question about the reality of international politics. The truth is that festive celebrations and Japanese-style hospitality cannot resolve the cold and harsh realities of the world.

Trump's Comeback Could Bring Dramatic Change

On May 22, the Financial Times published an article written by its Chief Foreign Affairs Commentator Gideon Rachman regarding Western support of Ukraine.

In March 2023, former US President Donald Trump boasted that he could end the war in Ukraine "in one day" if he were reelected president. It is unclear what specific measures he has in mind. But the United States accounts for the bulk of Western military support for Ukraine. That means Trump's reelection could be a harbinger of a dramatic change in the international situation. A serious confrontation may arise at some stage between US Democrats and Republicans over Ukraine.

In his article, Rachman points out that the inventories of military supplies for Ukraine being maintained by the United States and Europe are nearing depletion. He warns that unless they put their weapons factories under a wartime economic regime, they may fail to provide weapons or ammunition at the pace required on Ukrainian battlefields.

We are inundated with information that is comforting to us and unfavorable to Russia. But the chorus of criticism against Russia and China at the G7 Hiroshima summit may easily crumble.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy meets Ukrainian troops in the Donetsk region on April 18. (© The Presidential Office of Ukraine)

Japan Taking Advantage of Special Treatment

But why is Japan so carefree? As Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reiterates his vow to follow the policy line of the late PM Shinzo Abe, conservative commentators praise the government's three strategic documents issued in December 2022. They also laud its commitment to increasing Japan's defense spending to 2% of its GDP in five years as if it's a historic achievement.

The 2% of GDP target for defense spending became an issue at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. That was during the US Trump administration. But I doubt if any NATO member country still discusses the 2% target. The Baltic states and newly joined Finland are becoming more alert to Russia in the post-Ukraine-war age. It is now common sense to aim for a defense spending of 3% to 6% of GDP.

As the G7 chair, Japan is also taking advantage of special treatment that has allowed it to provide Ukraine with solely non-lethal weapons. The other G7 members are quietly watching Japan. Likened to a horse that had been reluctant to drink water, it has begun at last to go closer to the water's edge. 

But Any country that fails to know itself cannot survive. I repeat, Japan needs to make sure it acts like a G7 chair.


(A version of this article was first published by the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals. Find it in Speaking Out #1041 in Japanese on May 29 and in English on May 31, 2023.)

Author: Tadae Takubo

Tadae Takubo is Vice President of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and a professor emeritus at Kyorin University.


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