By Paul Meyer
- Hiroshima, May 19, 2023
or Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, hosting the G7 Leaders’ Summit this May in his home city of Hiroshima was the realization of a long-standing ambition. It would serve important goals both in his foreign and domestic policies but was not without its diplomatic challenges. Principally, how to find the right balance between supporting Western (read American) security positions at a time of serious conflict over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and at the same time signaling to his domestic audience that Japan, in concert with its G7 partners, was advancing its nuclear disarmament aims.
The resulting “G7 Leaders Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament” tries to square this circle with regrettably little to show for the effort in terms of meaningful progress on the specific arms control and disarmament objectives agreed to by the 190 states parties to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Even the title of the statement “Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament” is rather off-putting. Why is nuclear disarmament always treated as some kind of dream by G7 leaders instead of being the subject of an “Action Plan”?
Although the oft-proclaimed goal of a “world without nuclear weapons” is prominently re-affirmed, it is nonetheless immediately countered by the ambiguous “with undiminished security for all”. This phrase and its inherent conditionality are not part of the NPT’s Article VI nuclear disarmament obligation. The statement references last year’s G20 Bali statement that the threat or use of nuclear weapons was “inadmissible”, but only critiques Russia.
The January 2022 P5 statement that a nuclear war can’t be won and must never be fought is mentioned, but there is no suggestion that the P5 should go beyond these declaratory gestures and engage on how to reduce nuclear risks and re-energize arms control efforts. While the statement asserts that it is of “paramount importance to preserve, resource and strengthen existing regimes” it ignores the withdrawal of both Russia and the US from several of these arms control agreements and offers no guidance on how they can be maintained.
China is reproached for its “accelerating build-up of its nuclear arsenal without transparency or meaningful dialogue,” while the nuclear force modernization programs of other Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) are conveniently overlooked.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is of course for the G7 the treaty that dare not say its name, and we are only given the vague and threadbare affirmation that disarmament will be realized through a “realistic, pragmatic and responsible approach”. No reference is made to fulfilling existing NPT Review Conference disarmament commitments, such as reducing the saliency of nuclear weapons in security policies and doctrines. No sign of support for any major risk reduction measures such as de-alerting, “No First Use” or the termination of “Launch on Warning” postures.
CTBT entry into force is affirmed as an “urgent matter” (this 27 years after the treaty’s conclusion and scant prospect that China and the US will ever ratify the accord).A slight suggestion of progress is contained in the paragraph calling for negotiation of the FMCT, which makes no mention of this negotiation having to occur within the dysfunctional Conference on Disarmament.
A positive-sounding reference is made to NWS engaging with Non-Nuclear Weapon States (NNWS) in a “meaningful dialogue on transparency including through an open explanation of national reports coupled with an interactive discussion with NNWS and civil society at future NPT-related meetings”. This has some echo of earlier Canadian initiatives to promote reporting by states by having dedicated sessions at NPT meetings where those reports could be discussed. One will have to see if any of this is carried forward by the G7 states at the working group on the strengthened review process that is to precede the NPT Preparatory Committee meeting in August.
It is note-worthy that no reference is made to the US-initiated “International Partnership on Nuclear Verification” or the “Creating the Environment for Nuclear Disarmament” which suggests that neither of these processes have produced anything of value or the G7 leaders would have been keen to trumpet them.
This document is a gift to the host to meet his domestic political needs, rather than a road map to achieving the vision of a world without nuclear weapons.
Paul Meyer is a former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament, an Adjunct Professor of International Studies at Simon Fraser University and a Director of the Canadian Pugwash Group./i>