On May 26 and 27, Japan will convene the G-7 Ise-Shima Summit in Mie Prefecture, assuming the presidency of the summit of industrialized nations for the sixth time. Participants are expected to jointly draft a prescription for issues ranging from an uncertain economic future to terrorist attacks that rocked the world, a refugee crisis and maritime security in the South China Sea, where tension lingers. Below, the Mainichi Shimbun takes a look at the summit venue and main topics expected to surface on the negotiation table.
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TERRORISM & REFUGEES
The Ise-Shima Summit will be the first G-7 Summit following the terrorist attacks in Paris in November last year and in Belgium this March. Information on suspects in both attacks was not shared between many countries in advance -- possibly one reason the two countries were unable to prevent these acts of violence. Representatives of Asian and African countries, where measures against terrorism are especially lacking, will be invited to the summit this month for officials to discuss effective strategies for sharing terrorist information.
Following both terrorist attacks, the European Union (EU) reached an agreement under which member countries are to promote the sharing of classified terrorist-related information. The G-7 countries are also negotiating the sharing of airline passenger lists with the EU, and it is expected they will reach a formal agreement at the summit. However, developing countries in Africa and other areas do not have the same level of resources as G-7 countries, and there remain many challenges to achieving effective information-sharing methods.
Issues pertaining to refugees and immigrants are also important. Over 1 million refugees and people seeking new havens flowed into Europe last year. In March this year the EU in effect closed the Balkan route that 80 percent of them had used, and an agreement was reached with Turkey, which served as a "starting point" in the journeys of many refugees to Europe, to forcibly repatriate "illegal immigrants."
Refugees heading for Europe, however, have also been using another route -- traveling from northern Africa across the Mediterranean Sea, so it would be difficult to completely cut off the flow of immigrants.
To achieve a fundamental solution, political stability in Africa and the Middle East is indispensable, and cooperation from Russia, Iran and other countries is also needed. At the G-7 Ise-Shima Summit, people will focus on whether officials can produce effective proposals on cooperation with countries other than the G-7 members themselves.
RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA
After Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan shut Russia out of the Group of Eight. The global response to Russia is said to be an implicit theme of this month's summit. The G-7 countries hope to see stability in the situation in Ukraine, and plan to call for Russia and other related countries to implement a cease-fire agreement. With a succession of countries setting out to improve relations with Russia, attention is likely to settle on whether the G-7 nations can keep in step.
On May 6, after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited five countries in Europe to smooth the way ahead of the G-7 summit, he talked with Russian President Vladimir Putin for over three hours in Sochi in southern Russia. Regarding the situation in Ukraine, he stated that Japan held "strong expectations for Russia to play a constructive role," and conveyed a proposal to expand economic relations with Russia. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, meanwhile, visited Russia in April and communicated to Putin the wishes of French President Francois Hollande to invite Putin to France this autumn.
In contrast, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has led a hard-line stance on Russia. When asked if the U.S Department of State had any reaction to Abe's meeting with Putin, Press Office Director Elizabeth Trudeau stated, "Continued unity among our partners including the EU and the G-7 remains vital in our approach to Russia." It remains a fact, however, that Russia's cooperation is needed in many areas. On May 3 the United States and Russia reached an agreement to establish a cease-fire monitoring body for the civil war in Syria.
Japan will hold an outreach meeting during the G-7 Ise-Shima Summit, inviting the heads of state and government of non-G-7 emerging countries including Laos, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka, with a view to discuss maritime security. Japan aims to have several countries in Asia unite and send out a firm message, keeping in mind China, which has pushed ahead with major landfill work and the development of resources in the South China and East China seas.
At the G-7 meeting of foreign ministers in Hiroshima on April 10 and 11, in addition to a Joint Communique, participants adopted a statement on maritime security. While avoiding naming China directly, the statement said, "We are concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas," and added, "We express our strong opposition to any intimidating, coercive or provocative unilateral actions." By involving countries such as Vietnam, which has remained at odds with China over issues in the South China Sea, the Japanese government hopes to follow the line of discussion taken at the foreign ministerial meeting. China has strongly opposed Japan's moves.
At the outreach meeting, participants will also discuss what is necessary to sustain economic growth. However, with Britain, France and some of the invited Asian countries such as Laos having strong economic ties with China, it is possible that the discussion will see twists and turns.
Ignoring warnings from the international community, North Korea went ahead with its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 this year, announcing that it has successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. Then in February, it launched long-range missiles in succession -- moves provoking international society.
The Ise-Shima summit is the first to be held in Asia in eight years, and the Japanese government plans to adopt a strongly worded leader's declaration, and request effective sanctions from China, which has backed up North Korea. The Joint Communique from the foreign ministers' meeting in April condemned North Korea's nuclear and missile launches in the "strongest terms."
Unable to rule out the possibility that North Korea may be developing technology to make nuclear weapons small enough to be carried on missiles, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida commented, "The level of interest of other countries is higher than expected."
However, for North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program, China's cooperation is vital. Arrangements are being made to include in this summit's leaders' declaration a call for North Korea to abandon its ballistic missile activities and nuclear weapons program "in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner," as stated in a past U.N. Security Council Resolution, and to pressure China to take action.
Alongside the nuclear and missile issues, the Japanese government also plans to bring up the issue of North Korea's abduction of Japanese citizens, aiming to have the G-7 countries share its humanitarian concerns.
(Click on the "Related" link above for Part 1)