G7 in Hiroshima must defuse Ukraine nuclear risk

The Hiroshima Summit of the G7 next week is another chance to renew commitments for No First Use of nuclear weapons

Hiroshima Peace Memorial. Photo: WIKIMEDIA

In addition to bringing devastation to the people of Ukraine, the war has had severe impacts on the global scale, even raising the spectre of a nuclear weapon exchange.

As the conflict drags into its second year, there have been urgent calls for its resolution, and the matter will come up at the G7 Summit of leading industrial nations in Hiroshima from 19-21 May.

In February, an emergency special session of the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the early realisation of peace in Ukraine. Among the operative paragraphs of the resolution was one that urged the ‘immediate cessation of the attacks on the critical infrastructure of Ukraine and any deliberate attacks on civilian objects, including those that are residences, schools and hospitals’.

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With that as a first essential step, all concerned parties must come together to create a space for deliberation toward a complete cessation of hostilities. I would like to propose that, as negotiations advance through the cooperative efforts of the concerned countries, they be joined by representatives of civil society, such as physicians and educators who work in schools and hospitals to protect and nurture people’s lives and futures, participating as observers.

In March, the leaders of Russia and China issued a joint statement following their summit meeting which read in part: ‘The two sides call for stopping all moves that lead to tensions and the protraction of fighting to prevent the crisis from getting worse or even out of control.’ This is aligned with the resolution adopted by the emergency special session of the UN General Assembly.

The G7 Hiroshima Summit next week is an opportunity to build on these commitments and develop concrete plans for negotiations that will lead to a cessation of hostilities.

I also urge the G7 to commit at the Hiroshima Summit to taking the lead in discussions on pledges of No First Use of nuclear weapons.

The Ukraine crisis is without parallel in the length of time that the threat of use and the fear of actual use of nuclear weapons have persisted.

Since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the hibakusha of those cities, in coordination with the larger civil society movement, have stressed the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons. Non-nuclear-weapon states have engaged in continuous diplomatic efforts, and the states possessing nuclear weapons have exercised self-restraint. As a result, the world has somehow managed to maintain a seventy-seven-year record of non-use of nuclear weapons.

G7 summit
Karipbek Kuyukov (left) at a gathering of anti-nuclear weapons activists in Tokyo ahead of the G7 Summit in Hiroshima. The Kazakh painter was born without arms because of exposure to radiation from the former Soviet nuclear testing site in Semipalatinsk. Photo: Katsuhiro Asagiri, Multimedia Director of INPS Japan.

If international public opinion and the taboo against the use of nuclear weapons were to fail to provide their braking function, nuclear deterrence policy will compel humankind to stand on the edge of a precipice, never knowing when it might give way.

Since the start of the Ukraine crisis, I have drawn attention to the joint statement by the five nuclear-weapon states (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China) made in January 2022, which reiterated the principle that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought’, and called for it to serve as the basis for reducing the risk of nuclear weapons use.

Also of important note is the declaration issued by the G20 group in Indonesia last November, which stated: ‘The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible.’

The G20 member countries include nuclear-weapon states as well as nuclear-dependent states. It is deeply significant that these countries have officially expressed their shared recognition that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is ‘inadmissible’ — the spirit underlying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

It is vital that this message be communicated powerfully to the world from Hiroshima.

As the G7 leaders revisit the actual consequences of a nuclear weapon detonation and the bitter lessons of the nuclear era, I urge that they initiate earnest deliberations on making pledges of No First Use so that their shared recognition of the inadmissible nature of nuclear weapons can find expression in changed policies.

If agreement could be reached on the principle of No First Use, which was at one point included in drafts of the final statement for last year’s NPT Review Conference, this would establish the basis on which states could together transform the challenging security environments in which they find themselves. I believe it is vital to make the shift to a ‘common security’ paradigm.

Commitment to policies of No First Use is indeed a prescription for hope. It can serve as the axle connecting the twin wheels of the NPT and TPNW, speeding realisation of a world free from nuclear weapons.

Soka Gakkai International (SGI) has continued to work with the world’s hibakusha, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which arose from its parent body IPPNW, and other organisations first for the adoption and now the universalisation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

As members of civil society, we are committed to promoting the prompt adoption of policies of No First Use of nuclear weapons, generating momentum to transform our age.

Daisaku Ikeda is a peace builder and Buddhist leader, and President of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI). https://www.daisakuikeda.org/ 

Read full statement.

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