The Appalling Failure of the G7 to Act on Nuclear Disarmament

G7 leaders at the Hiroshima Peace Park by ラーム・エマニュエル駐日米国大使/Wikimedia Commons.

Seven super-hypocrites took a walk in a park recently and called it paying respects. If this sounds like the opening to a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, it may as well be. Because nothing tangible or real came of this caper.

The park was the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and the visitors were the leaders of the G7 countries: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Afterwards, US president, Joe Biden, tweeted: “Today, my fellow G7 Leaders and I paid a visit to Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park where we paid our respects.”

Walking in a park isn’t paying respects to the dead of Hiroshima, where at least 140,000 were killed (although estimates have never been certain) when the United States dropped the first of its two atomic bombs on Japanese citizens.

Abolishing nuclear weapons is paying respects.

And the G7 haven’t paid. The US has never apologized for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. France and the UK (as well as the US) have not only never apologized, but have refused to acknowledge the true extent of the harm caused by their decades of atomic testing. Germany and Italy have not kicked the US nuclear weapons bases out of their countries.

At the close of the G7 summit, hosted by Japan and deliberately held in Hiroshima as a reminder of the horrific consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, the member countries released a joint statement — grandiosely entitled “G7 Leaders’ Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament”. They prefaced it by saying they were issuing it in “a solemn and reflective moment’.

But the statement, which never once acknowledges the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) as the only genuine instrument for nuclear disarmament, is even worse than the “thoughts and prayers” offered after a mass shooting. In its protracted finger-pointing, principally directed at Russia, which is mentioned 11 times, the statement lays out a pathway toward the provocation of yet more violence, not disarmament, making the likelihood of nuclear war greater.

And with breathtaking hypocrisy, while also castigating North Korea, Iran and China, it conveniently fails to mention US plans to spend $1 trillion on revamping its nuclear weapons arsenal.

Instead, the G7 claim that as long as nuclear weapons exist — and they will with these leaders in charge — they “should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression and prevent war and coercion,” a failure demonstrated all too clearly by the situation in Ukraine.

As the Nobel Peace Prize-winning group, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons said in a press release after the G7 summit, the leaders “are evading their own responsibility for the current threat nuclear weapons pose to everyone.”

Further, the G7 use their statement as yet another opportunity to promote nuclear power, fatally enshrined as an “inalienable right” in both the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and, sadly the TPNW.

Just to make sure no one misses this urgent piece of marketing, the statement mentions the word ‘peaceful’ six times in the context of nuclear energy. It also repeats the lie that nuclear power “contributes to providing affordable low-carbon energy”, when nuclear power is not low-carbon and is wildly expensive — far more so than renewable energy, which the G7 mention not at all.

Perpetuating the spread of nuclear power technology only serves to ensure that nuclear weapons cannot — and never will — be abolished. But, of course, the G7 don’t actually want to eliminate nuclear weapons. They want to see Russia obliterated as a geopolitical power, even at the risk that nuclear weapons might be used by Russia in the process of trying to prevent such an outcome.

None of this is to say that Russia does not deserve admonition for its actions in Ukraine. But that must come from civil society, and from countries with nothing to gain. The G7 leaders cannot stand there and impugn others without also taking a look in the mirror, admitting their own role in the current global tensions, and taking some bold actions.

Before the G7 Hiroshima summit, a group of youth delegates suggested a list of 11 such bold actions that the G7 could take in order to genuinely move the world toward disarmament. Unlike the G7, who apparently either did not listen to, or were not moved by, the words of the hibakusha with whom they met, the youth delegates took note. In their statement they observed:

“As the last generation with the opportunity to directly hear the testimonies from global hibakusha, it is our mission and responsibility to embed their stories in our work and share them with younger generations.”

They also reminded world leaders that “In Hiroshima, we call on the world to listen to the hibakusha — the survivors of nuclear weapons — and recognize the moral imperative of nuclear disarmament. We urgently demand action on nuclear weapons to honor the lived experiences of the hibakusha and other communities affected by nuclear weapons, and to secure a safer world free from weapons of mass destruction for generations to come.”

That is paying respects.

This first appeared on Beyond Nuclear International

Linda Pentz Gunter is the editor and curator of BeyondNuclearInternational.org and the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear.