TOKYO: The selection of the host city for the 2023 Group of Seven summit under Japan’s presidency is emerging as a key issue in Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio’s diplomacy.
Kishida seems to support the idea of holding the summit in Hiroshima, which includes his electoral district. The western Japan city, devastated by the 1945 US atomic bombing, is viewed as an apt place as he wants to call for a world without nuclear weapons.
It is unclear, however, whether Kishida will be able to obtain consent from all nuclear powers among the G-7 nations. Kishida has not yet made public his position over the issue.
On Thursday, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui visited the prime minister’s office in Tokyo and submitted a written request that the summit be held in Hiroshima.
“It will be effective to hold discussions in Hiroshima, a city symbolizing peace, while taking into account the realities of the atomic bombing,” Matsui said.
Besides Hiroshima, Nagoya in central Japan and Fukuoka in southwestern Japan have expressed hopes of hosting the summit.
At his meeting with Matsui, Kishida only said, “There are several possible venues, so we’ll examine them carefully.”
When asked his opinion on the issue at a meeting of the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of parliament, on Wednesday, Kishida stressed the significance of world leaders visiting the atomic-bombed city.
“It’s very important to come into contact with the realities of the atomic bombing in the city,” Kishida said, also noting that nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation are big issues.
“Realizing the summit in Hiroshima will be a political legacy in itself,” a middle-ranking member of Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party said.
On Jan. 21, Japan and the United States released a joint statement on the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, calling on political leaders to visit Hiroshima and the other atomic-bombed city, Nagasaki.
In 2016, then US President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima for the first time as the country’s sitting president, just after the conclusion of the G-7 summit in Mie Prefecture, central Japan. Kishida, then foreign minister, played a major role in realizing the historic visit.
In view of the circumstances, a Foreign Ministry source said, “The United States should have no problem if Hiroshima hosts the summit.”
Meanwhile, the intentions of Britain and France, the remaining nuclear weapons states in the G-7 forum, are uncertain.
“It would be a big blow if Britain and France refuse” to attend a summit in Hiroshima, a source close to Kishida said.
According to sources, Kishida himself has said that the two nations would not attend if the summit were to be held in Hiroshima. But he is believed to be carefully exploring the possibility of staging the 2023 summit in Hiroshima.
Lawmakers of the ruling LDP and its coalition partner, Komeito, have various opinions.
“I think Hiroshima is desirable. I hope that it will be realized,” said Yuzuru Takeuchi, Komeito’s policy affairs head.
Meanwhile, an LDP lawmaker elected from Aichi Prefecture is mindful of the opinion of its capital, Nagoya. “It would be too much if he invites an international conference to his electoral home turf.”
The Foreign Ministry set up a preparatory office for the 2023 summit at the start of this month. The host city will be decided by late June, when this year’s G-7 summit will take place in Schloss Elmau, Germany.