Friday, September 29

A G7 in Hiroshima loaded with symbolism: floral tribute to the victims of the nuclear holocaust, more sanctions on Russia and a surprise visit from Zelensky

It is not just any group photograph. Beyond the fact that the protagonists that appear within the frame are the leaders of the richest democracies on the planetthe snapshot is charged with historical symbolism: the setting is the old political heart of hiroshima where the first nuclear bomb fell on August 6, 1945. And yes, in the center of the photo, to the left of the Japanese host, is the president of the country that dropped the bomb, the American Joe Biden, the only one of all those present who had been born then.

It was a very gray morning in Hiroshima. But that was probably the background scenery that would rock the occasion. In a very unstable geopolitical context, With a war in Ukraine garnering all the attention, some of the leaders posing for the photo say they dream of a future without nuclear weapons, but the reality is that the world is rapidly moving in the opposite direction.

Russia threatening a tactical nuclear attack on the Ukraine; North Korea advancing its nuclear program, like China and Iran; the US nuclear umbrella, sold as a deterrent, will once again cover South Korea, while the South Koreans themselves are asking their government to make their own nuclear weapons.

The rain on Friday morning in Hiroshima did not let up except at the right moment when the top brass from the US, Japan, UK, France, Germany, Italy and the European Union appeared at the Peace Monument to deposit offerings. floral wreaths on the arched building containing the names of each of the 333,907 people whose deaths have been attributed to the atomic bombing – 140,000 died when the Enola Gay dropped the bomb – either from the initial explosion or from subsequent radiation. Their names are inscribed on a register below the memorial, accompanied by a message: “May all souls here rest in peace, for we will not repeat evil.”

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After finishing the walk of the leaders, the ‘Financial Times’ announced that, at the close of the summit, on Sunday, one of the great protagonists of the main item on the G7 agenda, the war in Ukraine, will attend. Being the president of the country invaded by Russia, Volodymyr Zelensky, who hovered over Hiroshima. A surprise because the Ukrainian was initially expected to enter only by videoconference.

The visit to the memorial, which marked the start of the long-awaited G7 summit, was an opportunity to reflect on the horrors of the nuclear holocaust that swept through one of the most famous cities in western Japan. “It can never be repeated again,” shouted these days some Hibakusha (person affected by the bomb), such as Keiko Oigura and Ryohei Tanabe, two octogenarians who are among the more than 136,000 survivors of the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who remain alive. .

Oigura and Tanabe have spent their entire lives giving talks at schools and universities in Japan so that the youngest learn about their history and that the horror that occurred does not fall into oblivion. “Hiroshima could only become the city we have today because we have had more than 70 years of peace. The G7 leaders must understand that,” says Tanabe.

The languid weather blurred the walk of the G7 leaders through a 120,000-square-meter park that, before an American B-29 plane dropped the bomb, was the political and commercial center of Hiroshima. An area that the Japanese authorities decided that, unlike the rest of the city, would not be rebuilt, leaving as a great symbol the intact ruins of what was the Industrial Promotion Hall, one of the few buildings that remained standing, covered by a large dome that was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

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The host of the meeting, the Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishidastaunch supporter of nuclear disarmament, he wanted the summit to amplify that pacifist message. Last year, Kishida became the first Japanese leader to address the United Nations conference on the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the landmark 1970 agreement governing the world’s nuclear reduction efforts, calling for greater transparency from states. nuclear weapons and a decline in world reserves.

“Today, Hiroshima’s past should serve as a reminder of what can happen when peace and order break down and give way to instability and conflict, a reminder that is needed more than at any time in recent decades.” Kishida writes Friday in a column published in ‘Foreign Affairs’ magazine.

The leaders Departirn on Nuclear Concern after Putin announced in March that he would deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus and that he suspended Russian participation in the latest nuclear arms control treaty (New START) signed with the United States. On the other hand, according to what European diplomatic sources assure this newspaper, nuclear disarmament is not one of the priority issues on the group’s agenda.

The meetings, which began on Friday afternoon, will focus primarily in how the allies tighten the screws Russia with new sanctions and export controls. A US official has revealed that one of the purposes of the G7 is to “close the loopholes used by Moscow to evade sanctions” as well as disrupt Russia’s ability to obtain the materials it needs for the battlefield. According to the official, Washington plans 300 new sanctions targeting 70 Russian entities.

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Just before the summit began, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Rishi Sunak, assured that your country will ban imports of copper, nickel and aluminum of Russian origin. Later, Sunak will also announce a ban on Russian diamonds. Speaking at a press conference from Hiroshima, Charles Michel, president of the European Council, said other EU countries would also join those restrictions to cut revenue from Russia’s multibillion-dollar diamond industry.

During his appearance on the sidelines of the summit, Michel, who was also visiting the memorial together with Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, spoke about China, another of the main sources of contention where the G7 meetings will point.

“The EU is interested in maintaining a stable and constructive cooperation with China, but wants to remove risk to reduce excessive dependencies and diversify to address unfair practices,” said Michel, who also took the opportunity to ask Beijing to use its influence on Putin to put an end to the invasion of Ukraine. “We call on China to put pressure on Russia to stop its military aggression.”

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