At their summit, G7 Leaders Utterly Failed to Learn the Lesson of Hiroshima May 25, 2023

© European Commission, used with permission

On May 19-21, heads of state  from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the USA, met in Hiroshima  to discuss global issues at the annual Group of Seven Summit. A month prior,  24 representatives of American nongovernmental organizations—including PSR—sent a letter to President Biden urging him to deliver a speech in Hiroshima outlining USA steps toward disarmament.  An excerpt:

“At a time of growing nuclear danger, we hope you will during your visit to Hiroshima elaborate on how the United States is willing and ready to work with other states, including those with nuclear weapons and those that have forsworn them, to ensure that no country or city suffers the horrors of nuclear war ever again.”

This year’s G7 summit was hosted by Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who chose Hiroshima for the venue, saying the meeting presented a unique opportunity “to deepen discussions so that we can release a strong message toward realizing a world free of nuclear weapons” and to “demonstrate a firm commitment to absolutely reject the threat or use of nuclear weapons.” To underline that, Kishida arranged for the G7 leaders to hear testimony directly from Ms. Keiko Ogura—who is an hibakusha (atomic bomb survivor) and tour the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It seemed as though the stars were aligned for a major disarmament breakthrough at this G7 summit.

The leaders of the G7,  including President Biden, in their “G7 Leaders’ Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament”,  did “reaffirm…our commitment to achieving a world without nuclear weapons with undiminished security for all.” They also invoked the 10 page Hiroshima Action Plan (created in Japan), which is available in outline here and in full here. However, the G7 leaders ultimately said nothing of substance about any actions they would take to realize their vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.  Instead, their “vision” criticized Russia, failed to acknowledge their own reliance on nuclear bombs for security, and served up pablum about nuclear weapons dangers. 

For supporters of nuclear weapons abolition, disappointment with this G7 outcome was palpable. 

Hibakusha Setsuko Thurlow told reporters in Hiroshima on May 21 that she was disappointed there was no mention of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in the “Hiroshima Vision” statement. “I was disappointed that the statement only carried things that had been discussed in the past, despite the leaders having the opportunity to meet atomic bomb survivors, visit the museum, and think about these things. I felt no pulse, no warmth from the voices of the #G7 leaders.” (Thurlow, along with former ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn, accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Thurlow was 13 years old and about a mile away from Ground Zero when the United States detonated an atomic bomb at Hiroshima.)

Additional responses: 

“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.”

— excerpt from ICAN’s official response on May 20

 “When the United States opted to use nuclear weapons to flatten the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we also chose to put the world on the path that has led us to today. The nuclear-armed nations got on the wrong path, and now as we travel along it, we carry a ticking time bomb along with us. Citizens in this dangerous world looked to the G7 to map out a different path–leading  to a nuclear weapons free world.  Instead, these leaders refused to hear the Hiroshima story, or learn its lessons, or apply any moral clarity whatsoever to the situation. In a stunning abdication of duty, they opted to simply kick the can further down the road.”

— Martin Fleck, PSR Nuclear Weapons Abolition Program Director

“They didn’t need to go to Japan to offer empty words and zero concrete solutions or steps. According to them, a nuclear weapons-free world is just a dream, and they are determined to keep it that way.”

— Ivana Nikolic Hughes, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, writing in Common Dreams

“This isn’t ‘vision’, it’s myopia.”

— Linda Pentz Gunter, Beyond Nuclear

“I think this statement is evil in its duplicity, its hypocrisy, and in the fraud it attempts to perpetrate on anyone who reads it. It deserves nothing but denunciation as a self-serving piece of propaganda.”

— Ralph Hutchison, Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance

To get a sense of the hopes that the G7 dashed, consider the following: 

  • Joint statement, April 27, by the delegates of the Hiroshima G7 Youth Summit, sponsored by ICAN

An excerpt:

“We are resolved to unite across borders, languages, and local cultures to create a global culture of peace and total nuclear abolition. We believe that we must forge a world not just free from the devastating consequences of nuclear weapons, but one that is constructive and intentional for lasting peace. We are determined to ensure that the sacrifices and stories of the hibakusha will never be forgotten. We urge the G7 leaders to heed our words and take concrete action for a sustainable and mutually prosperous world.”

  • May 4 letter to President Biden from Senators Ed Markey and Jeff Merkley, and Representatives Don Beyer and John Garamendi, who lead the Congressional Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group urging him to “propose specific steps your administration is prepared to take to advance a new global nuclear disarmament dialogue.” 

  • May 17 joint letter to the G7 from the Catholic archbishops of Santa Fe, Seattle, Hiroshima and Nagasaki urging them to promote disarmament.

  • May 17 joint letter from the European Leadership Network and Asia Pacific Leadership Network to the G7 —  from over 200 leaders and experts from 50 nations, including 6 former heads of state and 26 former Foreign & Defense Ministers, urging the G7 leaders to prioritize nuclear arms control. 

Excerpt: 

“… nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction represent a multiplier of risk that offers only an illusion of peace. 

Assuring you of my prayers for you and for those entrusted to your pastoral care, I join you in praying that the G7 Summit at Hiroshima will demonstrate farsighted vision in laying the foundations for lasting peace and stable and long-term sustainable security.”

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