HIROSHIMA – The Group of Seven foreign ministers’ meeting kicked off Sunday in the city of Hiroshima, paving the way for the G-7 leaders’ late-May summit in Mie Prefecture.
At the end of the two-day meeting, foreign ministers from Japan, the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the European Union are expected to adopt a communique, as well as the Hiroshima Declaration, which will aim for a nuclear weapons-free world, and a statement regarding maritime security.
The meeting and the statements will set the stage for the G-7 summit scheduled for May 26 and 27 in Ise-Shima, Mie Prefecture. A total of 11 related meetings will be held in Japan through September, including a gathering of G-7 finance ministers and central bank governors in Sendai immediately before the summit.
On the first day of their meeting, the ministers discussed global concerns such as terrorism and refugee issues. Terrorism is the most imminent threat to Europe, which has been a frequent target of attacks, notably by the Islamic State extremist group.
Last November, Islamic State launched a series of shooting and bomb attacks in Paris, in which 130 people were killed. The group also claimed responsibility for two other attacks in Brussels last month. In those attacks, 32 people died.
Brussels came under fire after miscommunications and other errors failed to prevent the country’s deadliest-ever terrorist attack. Belgian authorities admitted they missed an alert from Turkish authorities about Ibrahim El Bakraoui, one of the Brussels suicide bombers, who was arrested on suspicion of terrorism activities last year in Turkey and later deported to the Netherlands.
The Belgian prosecutor’s office said El Bakraoui’s brother, Khalid, who along with Ibrahim also detonated a suicide belt at Brussels Airport, had been on the run since December in connection with the Paris attacks.
These acknowledgements underscore that the European Union and the global community need better coordination to fight terrorism.
The G-7 foreign ministers denounced the indiscriminate killings by terrorists and agreed to lead global cooperation to fight violent and extremist attacks.
Japan’s foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, also said that G-7 nations should complement each other by utilizing their competitive edge in fighting terrorism and dealing with the refugee crisis, another big concern for European Union nations.
Although Germany has found itself one of the biggest destinations of refugees, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was absent from the first day’s meetings because his flight was delayed in China.
Ministers also talked about the Middle East and regional security in Asia, including in the East China Sea and the South China Sea. Kishida said the G-7 foreign ministers all agreed it is important to abide by international laws.
Kishida also said the ministers had “heated discussions” about North Korea. They condemned the North’s escalating provocations, including its nuclear test in January and the launch of a satellite-carrying long-range rocket in February, which many regarded as an ICBM test. The ministers denounced the action and vowed to work together.
For Kishida, a third-generation Lower House lawmaker from Hiroshima, one of the main events of the meeting will take place Monday when he hosts the dignitaries during a visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
This is the first time G-7 foreign ministers and nuclear powers, including the United States, France, and Germany, will visit the museum. They will also lay floral tributes at the cenotaph located inside Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
Kishida has repeatedly said he hopes to bring global leaders to Hiroshima to drive home the reality of the atomic bomb. To this end, he hopes to bridge differences between the world’s nuclear and nonnuclear powers by adopting the Hiroshima Declaration on Monday.
But any declaration is unlikely to mention “the inhuman aspect of atomic bombs,” something Japan has emphasized for a long time.
Last year, when Japan proposed a U.N. resolution including such a phrase, the U.S., Britain and France abstained from casting their votes.
In an interview with the Chugoku Shimbun, a Hiroshima daily, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. supports a world without nuclear weapons.
Yet he said the U.S. will pursue the goal by taking what he referred to as realistic and pragmatic measures.
Kerry added that it is critical to find methods to make progress on nuclear disarmament to reduce the risk to America, its allies and the entire human race.
Meanwhile, as this is the first time G-7 meetings have been held in Asia in eight years, and Japan is the only G-7 member from the region, Kishida hopes to take the initiative in talking about territorial issues, including disputes centering on the South China Sea, where Beijing has carried out massive land reclamation projects and deployed radar and surface-to-air missiles.
Without naming China, the statement on maritime security, which is likely to be adopted Monday, is expected to say countries should abide by international court rulings in dealing with territorial disputes.
In the coming month, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is expected to issue a ruling over the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China.
Beijing has expressed concern about Japan, which it sees as siding with other Southeast Asian nations that are at odds with China regarding the territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
After talking with Steinmeier on Saturday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said bringing up the South China Sea issue at the Hiroshima conference will offer no solutions but only affect regional stability.