The Irish Times view on the G7 and nuclear weapons

In Hiroshima, western leaders are expected to make a statement condemning any potential nuclear conflict,but there will be no willingness to go further

Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida, this weekend’s host in his Hiroshima constituency to the Group of Seven summit of western economic powers, lost several members of his family in August 1945 when the atomic bomb fell on the city. By year-end 140,000 had died. Yesterday, G7 leaders visited the city’ s memorial.

Kishida has made a welcome pledge to urge the leaders to look beyond current geopolitical preoccupations, whether war in Ukraine or the threat from China to Taiwan, to back the case against nuclear weapons and revive faltering disarmament and proliferation control treaties.

The world is becoming more dangerous. President Joe Biden recently spoke of the risk being at its highest in 60 years of a nuclear armageddon. Adverting to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine he said: “He’s not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons because his military is, you might say, significantly underperforming.”

The threat is also building in North Korea, testing missiles at an unprecedented rate and apparently ready to try out its seventh nuclear bomb. China is modernising its arsenal. In February, Russia pulled out of the 2010 New Start treaty, which sets limits on US/Russian deployed strategic nuclear arsenals, while the US repudiation of the Iran nuclear deal seems to have encouraged the latter to accelerate its nuclear programme.

READ MORE

UN secretary general António Guterres this week called on the G7 leaders to declare they will not use nuclear weapons “in any circumstances”. That is unlikely to happen. In Hiroshima, they are expected to make a statement condemning any potential nuclear conflict but there will be no willingness even to promise no-first-use, although both China and India have already pledged that.

Ireland, a firm anti-nuclear outlier, is represented at the G7 by the EU, which is unfortunately unlikely to press for a signing-up to the landmark UN 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which promotes an outright international ban on nuclear use, development, or expansion and staged disarmament by nuclear powers.