Upholding the rule of law and ensuring that Russia “pays a price” for its continuing invasion of Ukraine will be among the highest priorities for Japan as it hosts the G-7 summit of the world’s most developed countries this weekend, said Japan’s Ambassador to India Hiroshi Suzuki said on May 18.
“Prime Minister Fumio Kishida wants to send a strong message from Hiroshima that unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force must not be allowed anywhere in the world. That is to say, if Russia is allowed to go [ahead], without paying any price, then other countries may be tempted to the same,” Mr. Suzuki told The Hindu in an interview.
When asked about U.S. President Joseph Biden’s last-minute decision to cancel his subsequent visits to Australia and Papua New Guinea, the Ambassador said that Australian officials were working “very hard” to convene a shortened version of the Quad meeting in Hiroshima, that was meant to be held in Sydney, but that arrangements were still being negotiated.
He denied that the cancellation of the planned Quad summit signalled a greater stress on the challenge from Russia, that the G-7 is focused on, than on issues with China and the Indo-Pacific, that the Quad would have discussed. However, the Japanese Ambassador made it clear that stopping the Russian invasion, and supporting Ukraine were at the top of the agenda.
“We stand at a critical juncture to send a clear message that we should never allow the world to slide back to the dark ages of the law of the jungle,” Mr. Suzuki added, in a sharp statement on the eve of the summit, which will see leaders of the U.S., Canada, the U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Japan come together in Hiroshima to discuss major geopolitical developments.
The occasion will also be used to hold a number of “outreach” sessions with invitees from India, South Korea, Australia, Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia, Comoros and the Cook Islands. Russia was a member of the erstwhile “G-8” grouping until it was expelled after the Crimean war in 2014.
Calling India a “key partner” for the summit, Mr. Suzuki said that while India and Japan may have differences over the issue, one of Mr. Kishida’s objectives during the summit is to align the G-7 agenda with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda for the G-20 summit in September.
“Prime Minister Modi is a key partner because even though India has not criticised Russia in public, by naming Russia, India always said it supports the fundamental principles like sovereignty, territorial integrity, rule of law, peaceful settlement of conflicts, you know, those are the fundamental rules enshrined in the UN Charter,” he said.
Another key priority was dealing with “real critical challenges” of food and energy security, climate change and sustainable development, which had become more acute as a result of the Ukraine war, he added.
Mr. Suzuki said that the choice of Hiroshima — Mr. Kishida’s hometown and constituency as venue for the G-7 summit — was to drive home Japan’s push for nuclear non-proliferation. He said that Hiroshima, the site of one of two atom bombs detonations by the US Air Force in 1945, houses a ‘Peace Museum’, and he hoped that visiting dignitaries would see the “indescribable ordeals” that people in Japan underwent, and that they would commit to the continued non-use of nuclear weapons. In another pointed reference about the Ukraine war, Mr. Suzuki said that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “rhetoric, and repeated threats to use nuclear weapons” would be highlighted by Japan during the summit.
The differences over Russia will be a major concern for India as it prepares for the G-20 summit in New Delhi. The U.S. and European countries are ranged against a Russia-China combine and are holding up the consensus required for a joint statement to be issued at the summit. Mr. Suzuki, who has served Japan’s Sherpa for the G-7 and G-20 summits, said that from his own experience, joint statements are negotiated “until the last moment”.
“I know for sure that India G-20 Sherpa [Amitabh Kant] is an extremely capable person… Of course, he will have difficult moments, but Japan stands ready to help the Indian G-20 presidency as much as possible,” he said.