Diplomats gather in Japan at ‘historic turning point’

KARUIZAWA, Japan (AP) — Top diplomats from Europe and North America arrived at this hot-spring resort on Sunday to discuss the world’s most protracted crises, including ways to end Russia’s war in Ukraine, counter China’s aggression against Taiwan and to lure North Korea back into nuclear disarmament talks.

You’ll dive right in, with a private working lunch on Sunday focusing on China and North Korea. But even before the Group of Seven foreign ministers’ talks began, outside events threatened to overshadow diplomacy, including questions about US intelligence leaks that threatened crucial alliances and security concerns after someone dropped an explosive device on the Japanese leader during a campaign had case.

Japan is keen to use a smoothly functioning G-7, which includes a variety of meetings on climate, finance and other issues ahead of a summit of leaders next month in Hiroshima, to build a stronger unified front against the follow what Tokyo and other democracies see Russian, Chinese and North Korean aggression.

Amid widespread skepticism that the United Nations, often paralyzed by the outsized powers of Russia and China in the Security Council, can do anything about these issues, many will be watching what, if anything, G-7 ministers from Japan, the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Italy and the European Union could do so.

Security in Karuizawa is tight, but Japan was forced to address security concerns after a young man threw an explosive device at Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on the eve of the diplomats’ arrival. Kishida was unharmed on Saturday and continued to campaign, but the attack is an unwelcome development for Tokyo amid an ongoing security debate over the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe nine months ago.

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“Starting with the summit, we must make every effort to ensure safety and security… (while) dignitaries from around the world gather,” Kishida told reporters on Sunday.

The three-day talks will also provide the first real test of the Biden administration’s claim that minimal damage has been done by the disclosure of top-secret documents related to the war in Ukraine and US views of its allies and partners.

Ahead of his trip to Japan, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said from Hanoi on Saturday that he had heard no concerns from allies, but the revelations were looming over the G-7 meeting, the first major international diplomatic conference since the documents were online were discovered and made public.

Some observers expect Japan and other nations could use the G-7 to announce an increase in aid to Ukraine.

“As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shook the foundations of the international order, the international community is now at an historic turning point,” Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said ahead of the meeting. “I will chair the discussions as the meeting’s chair, demonstrating the G-7’s strong determination to reject attempts to change the status quo by force and the threat or use of nuclear weapons by Russia, while defending the rules-based international order.”

Although Beijing diplomats will not be present in Japan, China’s rapid military advancement will also play a major role in the discussions.

China has recently dispatched planes and ships to conduct a simulated encirclement of Taiwan, and in recent years has seen a rapid increase in its nuclear warheads, a harder line on its claim to the South China Sea and increasing comments from its leader Xi Jinping about a scenario of an imminent confrontation .

Partly in response to China’s rise, Japan made a major break with its post-WWII principles of pure self-defense as it works to acquire pre-emptive strike capabilities and cruise missiles to counter the growing threats.

Diplomats will also look for ways to resume diplomacy aimed at pressuring a hostile North Korea to return to disarmament talks. Since last year, North Korea has tested around 100 missiles, including ICBMs that have shown potential to reach the US mainland, and a host of other shorter-range weapons that threaten South Korea and Japan.

AP writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and diplomatic writer Matthew Lee in Hanoi contributed to this story.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed.

Brian Ashcraft

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