By Hyung-Jin Kin and Mary Yamaguchi
May 15, 2023
FILE - Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks during an interview with foreign media members at the prime minister's office on April 20, 2023, in Tokyo. For the summit of the leaders of the Group of Seven wealth democracies starting on May 19 in Hiroshima, Kishida has also invited eight other guest countries: South Korea; Australia; India; Brazil; Vietnam; Indonesia; Comoros and the Cook Islands. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File).
TOKYO (AP) — This week’s summit of the Group of Seven wealthy democracies in Hiroshima will include eight other guest nations, part of a complicated, high-stakes diplomatic gambit meant to settle the world’s most serious crises.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has invited South Korea, Australia, India, Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia, Comoros and the Cook Islands.
Kishida hopes this mix of countries will help efforts to stand up to China’s assertiveness and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to analysts. He also wants stronger ties with U.S. allies and with developing nations and to make progress on working toward a nuclear-free world, something that looks increasingly difficult amid North Korean and Russian nuclear threats.
Here’s a look at what to expect as the rich world leaders welcome these guest countries:
PUSHBACK ON CHINA, RUSSIA
As their top diplomats did last month in a meeting in Nagano, Japan, the leaders of the G-7 nations — the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Italy and the European Union — will try to form a unified front against Chinese threats to Taiwan and Russia’s war on Ukraine.
“The G-7 is committed to upholding the international order, and most of its members are in Europe, so supporting Ukraine against Russia’s invasion is a top priority,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
“As the pillar of the G-7 in Asia, Japan is particularly focused on updating the international order to cope with the rise of China,” Easley said. “The Kishida government’s agenda and special invitations for the Hiroshima summit reflect an effort not to contain China but to expand the international coalition defending standards for state behavior.”
The eight guest nations have complex political and economic ties with China and Russia.
India is part of the Quad group of four Indo-Pacific nation, which also includes the United States, Japan and Australia. China has accused that group of representing an “Asian NATO.”
On the Russia-Ukraine war, India has abstained several times from voting on U.N. resolutions against Moscow, though it has stressed the need for diplomacy on ending the war. It’s boosted its imports of Russian oil.
Brazil is a member of the so-called BRICS group of developing nations, including China, Russia and India. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva recently visited China to strengthen ties with its biggest trade market. He has also irritated Ukraine and some in the West with his position on the war, recently suggesting that Ukraine cede Crimea to forge peace.
Japan is courting Vietnam because it also has territorial disputes with China, according to Kim Yeol Soo, an expert at South Korea’s Korea Institute for Military Affairs.
___ ‘GLOBAL SOUTH’ NATIONS
Kishida has said his list of guest nations reflects the importance of the so-called “Global South” countries. That’s a term used for developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The G-7 nations account for about 40% of the world’s economic activity, a decrease from an estimated 80% of global gross domestic product in the 1970s.
“When the U.N. adopts resolutions, you see a considerable number of its 190 or so member states are ‘Global South’ countries,” said Choi Eunmi, a Japan expert at South Korea’s Asan Institute Policy Institute.
Indonesia’s importance for Japan, for instance, is linked to its abundant natural resources and economic potential, said Kim, the expert.
India is this year’s president of the G-20, which is seen as a crucial bridge between G-7 economies and the Global South. Japan has traditionally had close ties with India, where Kishida visited in March for a summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In response to questions by The Associated Press, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said the G-7 and other nations need to cooperate with the Global South to deal with energy, food security, climate change, health and development issues.
___ US ALLIES
Japan’s invitation of South Korea reflects the neighbors’ role as staunch U.S. allies with a shared security threat from North Korea’s advancing nuclear arsenal.
In recent weeks, Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol have taken major steps to boost security and economic cooperation and to move beyond historical grievances stemming from Japan’s 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry’s response to an AP query praised Yoon for an “active diplomacy showing commitment to the peace and prosperity of the region, including announcing the Indo-Pacific strategy.”
Kishida, Yoon and U.S. President Joe Biden are expected to meet on the margins of the G-7 summit to discuss North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, China’s growing influence and the Russian-Ukraine war.
Australia, also a key U.S. ally, has already been closely cooperating with Japan, including on efforts to achieve a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, which called Australia a “special strategic partner.”
Last year, the two countries signed a new security agreement covering military, intelligence and cybersecurity cooperation to counter the deteriorating security outlook driven by China’s increasing assertiveness. It was the first such agreement Japan has struck with any country other than the United States.
Some of the guest nations lead regional and other bodies.
Brazil takes over next year for India as president of the G-20. Indonesia is chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Comoros leads the African Union, and the Cook Islands chairs the Pacific Islands Forum.
Japan is stepping up its security and economic ties with the 18 Pacific Forum countries, partly to counter growing Chinese influence there. Observers say the invitation of the Cook Islands is an expression of Japanese respect to the Pacific nations, where there’s been worry about the planned release of treated but still radioactive wastewater into the Pacific from Japan’s tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Kishida is from Hiroshima, one of the two Japanese cities hit with U.S. atomic bombs at the end of World War II. Holding the summit in his hometown will give him a chance to outline his determination to build a nuclear-free world.
Because of North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear missiles meant to target the U.S. mainland, “it would be a bit awkward if Japan didn’t include South Korea, which faces North Korea’s nuclear threats on its doorstep,” said Choi, the expert.
Kim reported from Seoul, South Korea.