G7 Hiroshima Summit and Efforts for a Safer World
Without Nuclear Weapons

Nobushige Takamizawa

The G7 Hiroshima Summit 2023 concluded, and numerous policy documents were issued, including the "G7 Leaders' Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament." 1 As Japan hosted the summit in Hiroshima, the first city to experience atomic bombing, people expected many world leaders to offer prayers at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum 2 to deepen their understanding of the realities of nuclear devastation and convey their messages. The summit also needed to address the escalating risk of actual nuclear weapon use due to the deteriorating situation caused by Russia's aggression in Ukraine, the expanding nuclear forces and growing nuclear salience, the erosion of arms control regimes, the deterioration of regional security environments, and the increasing risks of proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Given these challenges on the two fronts, the Hiroshima Vision, a comprehensive and substantive document specifically focused on nuclear disarmament at the G7 leaders' level, holds historical significance. Additionally, not only the G7 leaders but also many other world leaders, including those from the invited countries, offered prayers for peace and stability, visited the Memorial Museum, and deepened their understanding of the realities of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These actions can be seen as an immediate implementation of the Vision.

The guest book at the Memorial Museum contains the sentiments of all G7 members, with messages such as "No words can describe the horror and suffering of the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki" (UK Prime Minister Sunak), "Historic occasion of the G7 Summit to realize a world without nuclear weapons" (Prime Minister Kishida), "Together, let us continue to make progress toward the day when we can finally and forever rid the world of nuclear weapons" (US President Biden), "To act in favour of peace, the only fight worth fighting" (President Macron of France), and "A nuclear war must never be fought again" (German Chancellor Schultz). 3

Prime Minister Kishida made it clear in his inaugural policy speech to the Diet in October 2021, "As a prime minister hailing from Hiroshima, the site of an atomic bombing, what I strive for is a world free of nuclear weapons. Making use of ‘The Group of Eminent Persons (for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament)' 4 5 that I launched, Japan will serve as a mediator bridging the gap between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states, discharging its responsibilities as the only country to have experienced the horror of nuclear devastation in war." He also emphasized his commitment, stating, "I will firmly receive in my hands the torch known as the total elimination of nuclear weapons, which great leaders the world over have taken on so many times until now, and do my very utmost to bring about a world free of nuclear weapons." 6

In his policy speech to the Diet in January 2022, Prime Minister Kishida reiterated that he will courageously pursue a world free of nuclear weapons by referring to what President Obama wrote in the guest book at the Memorial Museum in 2016: "Let us now find the courage… to… pursue a world without nuclear weapons." He further stated, "In order to further develop the discussions of the Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament, … I will establish an international group of eminent persons for a world free of nuclear weapons, with the participation of current and former political leaders from around the world. We will convene the first meeting in Hiroshima, aiming at sometime within this year." 7

In his policy speech in January 2023, Prime Minister Kishida stated, "We will seize the opportunity of the summit being held in Hiroshima, the site of an atomic bombing, to lead international initiatives towards a world without nuclear weapons. We will move forward on realistic and practical initiatives by building on our past efforts, including the Hiroshima Action Plan 8, while also taking into account the sage views of the IGEP (International Group of Eminent Persons for a World without Nuclear Weapons). 9

The underlying background behind these series of statements is Prime Minister Kishida's strong interest in and consistent stance on nuclear disarmament with due considerations to the harsh reality of international security environment as well as Japan's security policy, since his time as Foreign Minister in the Abe Cabinet. In the new "National Security Strategy" (NSS) 10 formulated by the Kishida Cabinet in December 2022, it is stated that "Japan will adhere to the basic policy of… observing the Three Non-Nuclear Principles. The Japan-U.S. Alliance, including the provision of extended deterrence, will remain the cornerstone of Japan's national security policy." At the same time, the NSS stresses "halting and reversing the trend of arms buildup, including nuclear weapons, in the vicinity of Japan, and to prevent the occurrence of situations such as threats of nuclear weapons." It also emphasizes that Japan will take the lead in international efforts to realize a "world without nuclear weapons."

In this paper, I would like to provide an overview of the efforts of the international community and the series of initiatives launched, including those during Kishida's tenure as Foreign Minister, leading to the "G7 Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament" issued this time. While it has been pointed out that the actual security situations are becoming increasingly severe, and announcements of various policy documents without real progress sound hollow, I will focus on taking a close look at the significance of the specific measures proposed so far and examining the future challenges. This includes how these elements will be integrated into "strengthening the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. alliance" as called for in the new NSS.

Reflecting on the G7 Ise-Shima Summit and the "G7 Hiroshima Declaration on Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation" in 2016

Looking at the G7 Hiroshima Summit from the perspective of nuclear disarmament, it brings to mind the situation at the G7 Ise-Shima Summit seven years ago. In April 2016, when Minister Kishida chaired the G7 Foreign Ministers' Meeting held in Hiroshima, the "G7 Hiroshima Declaration on Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation 11" was issued along with other policy documents such as the G7 Foreign Ministerial Joint Communiqué. This declaration was subsequently endorsed in the "G7 Ise-Shima Summit Leaders' Declaration" 12 in May. After the summit, Prime Minister Abe and President Obama came over to Hiroshima, visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and left messages in the guest book, expressing their commitment to a "world without nuclear weapons." 13

The current series of actions aligns with this trajectory, but the G7 Hiroshima Declaration on Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation seven years ago was relatively concise. In the G7 leaders' declaration, the coverage of "non-proliferation and disarmament" was brief; it stated "We reaffirm our commitment to seeking a safer world for all and to creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons in a way that promotes international stability." Use of ‘creating the conditions' can be seen as a reflection of the challenging environment surrounding regional issues and nuclear disarmament, as evidenced by the failure to adopt a final document at the 2015 NPT Review Conference, particularly issues related to the Middle East and other regions.

Further deterioration of the international security environment and efforts towards the 10th NPT Review Conference

The international security environment continued to worsen due to ongoing nuclear tests by North Korea (January, September 2016, and March 2017) and the diversification of their nuclear/missile capabilities. Additionally, the situation deteriorated further with Russia's violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty through the development of ground-launched cruise missiles (9M729) with a range of 500km to 5500km. This violation led to mutual accusations of non-compliance and the expiration of the INF Treaty in February 2019. China also accelerated its unilateral military buildup, increasing defense spending significantly and rapidly strengthening its nuclear, missile, naval, and air forces. These actions lacked transparency and contributed to the deterioration of the international security environment.

Against this backdrop, the process towards the 10th NPT Review Conference officially began with the first Preparatory Committee meeting held in Vienna in May 2017. Foreign Minister Kishida made extraordinary efforts to attend this meeting and delivered a general statement 14, strongly condemning North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and missiles, and calling for compliance with UNSCRs. At the same time, he proposed "three improvements and enhancements" in order to create an environment for a world without nuclear weapons. These improvements aimed to bridge the gap between nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon States and rebuild confidence and trust among them.

These improvements included building confidence through enhanced transparency, improving the security environment to reduce the incentive to possess nuclear weapons, and raising awareness of the reality of nuclear weapons use and the risk of proliferation. These proposals were updated and refocused from Minister Kishida's general statement at the 9th NPT Review Conference in April 2015, where he highlighted the "five principles." 15

One of the concrete measures proposed by Foreign Minister Kishida was the establishment of a "Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament" (the EPG) and its series of recommendations, the first of which was issued in May 2018. 16 The recommendations included "Building Bridges to Effective Nuclear Disarmament" as recommendations for the 2020 NPT Review Process, as well as a "Chair's Summary" prepared under the Chair's own authority and responsibility, outlining his understanding of the discussions at the first and second meetings of the Group.

From the perspective of "Bridge Building," the recommendations emphasized the need to restore "civility in discourse" and respect for divergent views, rather than criticizing others with different positions. The recommendations also stressed that all NPT parties should demonstrate their "ownership" of the treaty and proposed concrete measures to lay the groundwork for converging different approaches. They also pointed out several issues that need to be addressed in pursuit of "a world free of nuclear weapons."

The recommendations were submitted to the second Preparatory Committee meeting held in Geneva in April 2018, and at the meeting, Foreign Minister Kono highlighted three areas in which Japan called for the international community to take specific and concrete measures. 17 These areas include "increasing transparency" to contribute to avoiding mistrust and misunderstanding, building confidence among states, leading to nuclear risk reduction, and strengthening the NPT review process. The second area involved developing an effective nuclear disarmament verification mechanism as a groundwork for complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of nuclear weapons. The third area emphasized the importance of interactive discussions involving both nuclear-weapon States and non-nuclear-weapon States.

(Identifying and discussing Hard Questions)

Among the EPG recommendations, addressing "hard questions" garnered significant attention.

These hard questions revolve around the relationship between deterrence and disarmament, such as how to effectively contribute to threat reduction and address security concerns that may arise from the nuclear disarmament process. The Chair's Summary incorporated different views from group members, including seemingly contradictory and opposing perspectives, indicating the need for further discussions. The Japanese Foreign Ministry tasked the EPG with continuing its discussions to identify and elaborate on these "hard questions" in greater detail.

Subsequently, the EPG held three additional meetings to expand upon the Chair's Summary, resulting in the Chair's Report 18 in October 2019. The report particularly focuses on addressing differences in views regarding a series of "hard questions" and identifies several following questions in need of attention;

  1. The relationship between nuclear deterrence and security, including the right of self-defense;
  2. Nuclear deterrence as the only remaining role of nuclear weapons;
  3. The consistency of uses of nuclear weapons with international humanitarian law;
  4. Risks, mitigation and accountability associated with various aspects of nuclear weapons;
  5. How to manage the process of nuclear disarmament without undermining the security environment; and
  6. How to maintain a world free of nuclear weapons once it is achieved.

Answering these hard questions in today's security environment has become increasingly challenging. However, given the new developments surrounding nuclear deterrence in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is crucial to reconsider these difficult issues not only among government officials but also within the security and disarmament communities. The challenging issues highlighted in the Chair's Report require renewed and serious consideration. In the context of the relationship between deterrence and disarmament, the following questions in the Chair's Report are of particular importance and relevance.

  • 34. Should the only role of nuclear weapon be deterrence of other nuclear weapons?
  • 36. The extent to which the existence of nuclear weapons could contribute to general deterrence of an adversary's use of non-nuclear weapons.
  • 53. What kinds of transparency measures by nuclear-armed states could substantially contribute improving the security environment, leading to confidence building for nuclear threat reduction and disarmament?
  • 70. To what extent can non-nuclear military capabilities be alternatives to nuclear deterrence?
  • 74. Addressing the role of non-nuclear means of deterrence during nuclear disarmament will require first defining, and ultimately attempting to negotiate agreement on, acceptable overall balances of military power that would meet the defensive requirements of competing states while not enabling them to conduct aggression.
  • What measures of control on offensive and defensive non-nuclear and other unconventional military capabilities must be considered in order for nuclear-armed states to diminish the roles of nuclear weapons?
  • What methods could be developed to define whether and how cross domain balances could be achieved?
  • How could "agreed force balances" be monitored and enforced?

The significance of the "G7 Leaders' Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament"

"The G7 Leaders' Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament" is the result of various factors, including the personal commitment and initiatives of Foreign Minister Kishida and Prime Minister Kishida, as well as the repeated delays of the 10th NPT Review Conference and Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The Vision begins by reaffirming the commitment of the G7 leaders "to achieving a world without nuclear weapons with undiminished security for all" while acknowledging the unprecedented devastation and immense inhuman suffering experienced by the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The leaders also emphasize the importance of the 77-year record of non-use of nuclear weapons. They condemn Russia's irresponsible nuclear rhetoric, undermining of arms control regimes, and stated intent to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus as dangerous and unacceptable. The Vision recalls the statement in Bali by all G20 leaders, including Russia, and reiterates the G7's position that threats or use of nuclear weapons by Russia in the context of its aggression against Ukraine are inadmissible. The leaders call on Russia to reaffirm, through both words and actions, the principles enshrined in that statement.

The Vision is unprecedented in that it focuses on nuclear issues at the level of the G7 heads, and it provides comprehensive and concrete measures encompassing nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. It incorporates a series of United Nations resolutions, particularly the "Steps to Building a Common Roadmap towards a World Without Nuclear Weapons" adopted in December 2022, which Japan has led.

The Vision is unprecedented in that it focuses on nuclear issues at the level of the G7 heads, and it provides comprehensive and concrete measures encompassing nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. It incorporates a series of United Nations resolutions, particularly the "Steps to Building a Common Roadmap towards a World Without Nuclear Weapons" adopted in December 2022, which Japan has led.

From my perspective, the Vision explicitly and implicitly addresses various important points:

  • The need for the overall decline in global nuclear arsenals achieved since the end of the Cold War to continue and not be reversed.
  • A call on Russia to enable a return to full implementation of the INF Treaty.
  • Concerns about China's accelerating buildup of its nuclear arsenal without transparency or meaningful dialogue, which poses a threat to global and regional stability.
  • A call on Russia and China to provide data on their nuclear forces and the objective size of their nuclear arsenal, as well as to engage in a meaningful dialogue with non-nuclear-weapon States regarding transparency and limiting nuclear competition. This includes an open explanation of national reports and interactive discussions with non-nuclear-weapon States and civil society participants at future NPT-related meetings.

The Vision acknowledges the "Hiroshima Action Plan" proposed by Prime Minister Kishida at the 10th NPT Review Conference in August 2022 as a welcome contribution. All five pillars of the Hiroshima Action Plan are included in the Vision. Notably, the Vision places strong emphasis on improving transparency with specific actions in detail, addressing the lack and decline of transparency from China.

Additionally, the Vision covers various concrete measures related to the FMCT, CTBT, North Korea, and Iran, including the following:

  • The immediate commencement of negotiations on FMCT (Treaty banning the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices).
  • The declaration or maintenance of a voluntary moratorium on FM production.
  • Condemnation of threats to conduct nuclear tests.
  • The early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).
  • Demanding that Russia comply with the moratorium on nuclear testing.
  • Demanding North Korea refrain from destabilizing or provocative actions, including any further nuclear tests or launches that use ballistic missile technology.
  • Recognition that Iran's demand to halt nuclear escalation and the JCPOA (Joint Plan of Action) remain beneficial, and commends the IAEA's efforts in Iran.

At the end, the Vision underscores the importance of disarmament and non-proliferation education and outreach to raise and sustain awareness of the realities of nuclear weapons use. It is noteworthy to see a summit-level document welcoming specific initiatives and programs targeting youth, women, and civil society. The Vision highlights programs such as Japan's "Youth Leader Fund for a World without Nuclear Weapons," the P5's "Young Professionals Network," Germany's financing of "Youth Champions for Disarmament," and the EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Consortium's establishment of the "Young Women Next Generation Initiative." The significance of the Vision, issued in Hiroshima, the site of the atomic bombing, depends on the collective future endeavors and progress made through these initiatives.

(Criticism of the Vision and the reduction of the role of nuclear weapons)

Regarding the discussion, appreciation or criticism of the Vision in Japan 19, particularly in the context of nuclear deterrence, it is important to note that the Vision states "Our security policies are based on the understanding that nuclear weapons, for as long as they exist, should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression and prevent war and coercion." It is fair to say it does not view nuclear deterrence as a permanent solution. The Vision also includes a wide range of concrete actions that should be taken to advance disarmament, which should be considered alongside the acknowledgment of the importance of deterrence. Talking about the significance of deterrence either nuclear or conventional does not necessarily contradict with the pursuit of a world without nuclear weapons.

However, one aspect that might contribute to such criticism is the fact that the Vision does not refer to "reduction of the role of nuclear weapons," although the US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) released in October 2022 emphasizes that element. In addition, the lack of clarity on how to proceed with key issues related to disarmament and deterrence, as discussed in the EPG, participated by experts including those from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, could also contribute to the perception that the Vision is not sufficiently explicit.

"Integrated Deterrence" and Reducing the Role of Nuclear Weapons in US NPR 2022

The Biden administration released national security strategy, national defense strategy and nuclear posture review (NPR) in October 2022, taking into account fundamental changes in the international security environment. Concept of "integrated deterrence" is at the core of these strategy documents, and constitutes a framework for working across warfighting domains, theaters and the spectrum of conflict, in collaboration with all instruments of national power, as well as with U.S. allies and US partners.

It is also important to note the 2022 NPR emphasizes "reducing the role of nuclear weapons" in various contexts. It states "We fully recognize the enduring importance of a nuclear policy that balances the evolving demands of deterrence with our goal of taking steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and thereby reducing the salience of nuclear weapons globally." "We are placing renewed emphasis on arms control, nuclear non-proliferation, and risk reduction. These policies complement U.S. nuclear policy and force structure decisions and enable us to pursue opportunities to reduce the role of nuclear weapons globally, enhance strategic stability with the PRC and Russia, and reduce the risks of war or escalation during war."

The NPR goes on stating "DoD will seek to identify and assess the ability of non-nuclear capabilities to contribute to deterrence, and will integrate these capabilities into operational plans, as appropriate. While we are taking steps to advance the goal of reducing reliance on nuclear weapons, more far-reaching opportunities to move in this direction will require enduring improvement in the security environment, a commitment to verifiable arms control among the major nuclear powers, further progress in developing non-nuclear capabilities, and an assessment of how nuclear-armed competitors and adversaries may react."

Given these challenging developments, it is high time for Japan to conduct an both horizontal such as interagency or interdisciplinary discussions as well vertical discussions, involving politicians, experts and young people aiming at strengthened deterrence with reduced role of the nuclear weapons provided that fundamental enhancement of defense capabilities will be coupled with the review of the roles, mission and capabilities.

What needs to be done

In the January 2023 meetings of the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee and the Japan-U.S. summit, it was recognized that there is the convergence of new national security and defense strategies of the two countries toward bolstering deterrence in an integrated manner. It is stated in the 2+2 document that US and Japan "reaffirmed the critical importance of ensuring U.S. extended deterrence remains credible and resilient, bolstered by Japan's capabilities," and "reiterated both countries intend to deepen the substantive discussions at the Extended Deterrence Dialogue as well as through various senior-level meetings."

The new NSS identifies in the chapter "Deepening Security Cooperation with the United States" the specific challenges and outlines a broad range of concrete action items and areas of enhancing security cooperation both hard and soft, not limited to defense. 20 It also states "Japan will further strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance, including extended deterrence by the U.S. that is backed by its full range of capabilities, including nuclear."

When asked about the extended deterrence policy of the US in a session of the Diet, Foreign Minister Hayashi touched upon the two important pillars. The first is deterrence, including nuclear deterrent capability provided by the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, and Japan places high importance on ensuring reliability of the deterrence provided by the US through its total sum of the military capabilities both nuclear and conventional. At the same time, he emphasized the importance of the second pillar: Making and accumulating disarmament efforts to reduce armament including nuclear and building a safe and peaceful international community that does not require nuclear weapons." 21

In the context of integrated deterrence, I would like to refer to the remarks of Foreign Minister Hayashi in the Diet. "Total sum" should involve not only surpassing the "weapon barrier" between nuclear and conventional weapons but also overcoming the "ministry barrier" between the military and other specialized organizations and fields, such as intelligence, science and technology, and economic security. Additionally, it entails overcoming the "battlefield barrier" between traditional land, sea, and air forces and new domains, such as space, cyber, and electromagnetic waves. Furthermore, the "national barrier" should be overcome to seek substantive cooperation, not only in a bilateral context with the US but also in the context of broader cooperation with like-minded and partner countries. All of these efforts should result in comprehensive and accumulated deterrent capabilities. 22

The new National Security Strategy highlights the fundamentally reinforcing defense capabilities as the last guarantee of national security in dealing with diversified security challenges. However, it also recognizes that "In the current security environment, the boundaries between military and non-military, peacetime and contingency, have become blurred. Hybrid warfare is taking place, and grey-zone situations are constantly arising". Therefore the NSS emphasizes the increasing importance of taking full advantage of comprehensive national power, including diplomatic, defense, economic, technological, and intelligence capabilities and calls for strengthening interagency collaboration by breaking silos within the government. "With this in mind, Japan will reinforce its comprehensive defense architecture by promoting efforts in four areas that complement and are inseparable from the fundamental reinforcement of defense capabilities," the NSS states, and identifies four areas including "research and development, public infrastructure development, cyber security, and international cooperation, to enhance deterrence capabilities of Japan and like-minded countries. "

In relation to deterrence, the NSS includes several policy measures to be promoted. These measures include the joint development of defense equipment, the transfer of defense equipment and technology, capacity building support, strategic communication, and Flexible Deterrent Options (FDO), which encompass exercises and training. It is worth noting that the NSS places a high emphasis on strategic security cooperation with partner countries, and establishing new frameworks for provision of equipment and supplies and infrastructure development. It also emphasizes the need to maintain an adequate level of defense production and technological foundations as well as to strengthen economic, fiscal, and financial foundations.

While the strategy documents of Japan and the United States demonstrate their commitment to strengthening integrated deterrence, it is important to note that the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) has made it clear that the goal is "to ensure a safe, secure, and effective deterrent while taking responsible steps to advance the goal of reducing the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. strategy." The NPR also aims to eliminate "hedge against an uncertain future" as a formal role of nuclear weapons. Additionally, we should bear in mind that the G7 Vision states "the overall decline in global nuclear arsenals achieved since the end of the Cold War must continue and not be reversed."

In this context, it is essential to consider how to ensure security without overly relying on the credibility of U.S. extended deterrence or pursuing an increase in the number of nuclear weapons. We need to seek to enhance "collective and whole-of-security capabilities" by implementing comprehensive measures, both soft and hard, in various fields, not limited to the military. At the same time, facing a different world of deterrence, we need to think thoroughly about what kind of international security environment needs to be created, and in what time frame, to reduce our reliance on nuclear weapons and maintain global and regional peace and stability.

To achieve the "G7 Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament," sincere and earnest efforts to address these "hard questions" are essential. The government needs to communicate these questions, discussions and possible solutions to the public in a thoughtful and thorough manner. The Prime Minister's statement, "There is nothing stronger than diplomacy and security that enjoy the understanding and support of the citizens." 23 is definitely applicable to the issue of the relationship between deterrence and disarmament. Prime Minister also stated "I will advance ‘diplomacy and security that stand together with the Japanese people,' working to gain the understanding of as many people as possible by providing explanations to the public."

Nobushige Takamizawa is Visiting Professor at the University of Tokyo.

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