Update 20 May 2023: the G7 leaders have just issued the final communique from their summit in Hiroshima. It claims they have “taken concrete steps to strengthen disarmament and non-proliferation efforts, towards the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons with undiminished security for all” but it doesn’t say what these steps are. That’s because it can’t.
What we got from the leaders' discussion on nuclear weapons yesterday was a rehash of ideas and proposals that have failed to deliver progress over the past three decades. They did not announce anything new or concrete. They couldn't even bring themselves to follow the G20 and TPNW member states by condemning all nuclear threats. Instead they reserved their condemnation for Russia's and North Korea's threats, which, while justified, fails to acknowledge how the G7's own nuclear doctrines are based on the threat to use nuclear weapons and so contribute to the acute danger these weapons pose to everyone.
The G7's detailed statement “G7 Leaders’ Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament”, issued on May 19, falls far short of providing any meaningful outcomes for nuclear disarmament. After months of preparation and amid high expectations, the leaders are missing the moment to make the world safer from nuclear weapons, instead of confronting nuclear threats with a concrete, credible plan for nuclear disarmament - like the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons- they are barely even paying lip service to the horrors of Hiroshima, the first city attacked by nuclear weapons.
The statement recalls the unprecedented devastation and extreme and inhumane suffering experienced by the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where the atomic bombs were dropped and reconfirms the G7 leaders’ determination to realise a "world without nuclear weapons." Yet it fails to commit to concrete measures towards that goal and even emphasises the importance of reserving the right to use nuclear weapons. The G7 are trying to sell decades-old and insufficient initiatives as a new “vision”, when at the same time they themselves are complicit in the rising nuclear risks and promoting mass murder of civilians as a legitimate form of national security policy.
ICAN’s Executive Director Daniel Hogsta responded to the statement “This is more than a missed opportunity. With the world facing the acute risk that nuclear weapons could be used for the first time since Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed, this is a gross failure of global leadership. Simply pointing fingers at Russia and China is insufficient. We need the G7 countries, which all either possess, host or endorse the use of nuclear weapons, to step up and engage the other nuclear powers in disarmament talks if we are to reach their professed goal of a world without nuclear weapons”
In light of Russia’s unacceptable threats nuclear threats, the G7 leaders failed to offer a progressive and credible response, effectively walking back earlier language by the G20 that clearly condemned all nuclear threats, with equivocations meant to give the nuclear armed states in the group some cover: “ In this context, we reiterate our position that threats by Russia of nuclear weapon use, let alone any use of nuclear weapons by Russia, in the context of its aggression against Ukraine are inadmissible.” This is a step back from acknowledging that all nuclear threats are inadmissible, no matter who they come from.
The statement also refers to the importance of transparency. Again, this is something where some of the G7 states must look at the example they are setting- the UK, for example, decided in 2021 to be less transparent about their arsenal.
Failure to heed the survivors’ call
The statement fails to meaningfully acknowledge the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, and above all, it fails to meet the hibakusha's demands for real action to eliminate nuclear weapons. Instead of rising to meet the urgency and weight of this moment, the G7’s inaction is an insult to the hibakusha, and the memory of those who died in Hiroshima.
Hibakusha and activist SAKUMA Kunihiko asks #G7Hiroshima leaders to “share what you’ve learned about the humanitarian consequences with your own citizens. Don’t use this visit to Hiroshima to justify continued possession of nuclear weapons.” pic.twitter.com/PbDoaKl0yR— Daniel Högsta (@dhogsta) May 19, 2023
Earlier in the day, the G7 leaders reportedly spent less than 30 min inside the Peace Memorial Museum before placing a wreath at the cenotaph. They also met briefly with atomic bomb survivors, but this statement shows they did not actually listen to what the Hibakusha are asking for. They intend to ignore the risks and the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and to continue to be complicit in the risks they pose.
Satoshi Tanaka, survivor of the atomic bombing and Secretary General of the Liaison Conference of Hiroshima Hibakusha Organisations said: “This is not the genuine nuclear disarmament that Hibakusha are calling for. This is an evasion of their responsibility. Prime Minister Kishida has said that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is the final passage for a nuclear weapon-free world. No, it is not a final passage. It is the entry point. PM Kishida and other G7 leaders should accept the TPNW and start the real process of eliminating nuclear weapons.”
Photo: Satoshi Tanaka addresses journalists at a joint press conference with a-bomb survivors, ICAN and the Japanese NGO-network
Nuclear weapons are illegal under international law.
The next opportunity for the G7 to show that they are serious about addressing the nuclear threat is to participate in the next meeting of states parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. That's where the responsible states meet to implement a plan for global disarmament.