Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) countries have kicked off this year’s three-day summit in Japan’s Hiroshima and a host of issues will put the gathering in a critical spotlight.
The G7 has vowed to provide Ukraine with financial support for the year and punish Russia for its ongoing invasion of the country.
The leaders will also face the prospect of announcing concrete climate-related actions amid a plethora of dire warnings pertaining to the climate crisis that have been made just this year.
What is the Group of 7?
The G7 is an informal grouping of wealthy Western nations. It has no permanent secretariat or legal status.
The grouping includes the US, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada.
Each year, a different member country assumes the presidency of the group, sets priorities and organises summits.
This year, Japan has taken over the presidency from its predecessor Germany.
Representatives from the European Union also attend the grouping’s meetings.
The group was founded following the 1973 Opec oil embargo as a forum for the richest nations to discuss crises affecting the world economy.
G7 countries together have a combined annual gross domestic product (GDP) of $40 trillion – just under half of the global economy.
With Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, a host of other countries have been invited to the summit this year with the hope of strengthening ties with non-G7 countries, while shoring up support for efforts like isolating Russia.
Leaders from Australia, Brazil, India, Indonesia and South Korea are among the guests.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is also expected to join in person on Sunday.
What’s on the agenda?
G7 leaders said in a statement on Friday that they had ensured Ukraine had the budget support it needed for this year and early 2024 in its fight against Russia.
“Today we are taking new steps to ensure that Russia’s illegal aggression against the sovereign state of Ukraine fails and to support the Ukrainian people in their quest for a just peace rooted in respect for international law,” they said in a joint statement in Hiroshima.
The members also said they are “engaging” with other nations to avoid the flow of their goods and technology into Russia through third countries in an effort to crack down on any circumvention of sanctions that would give Russia a revenue boost.
According to a US official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to the Associated Press, the US component of the actions would blacklist about 70 Russian and third-country entities involved in the country’s defense production and sanction more than 300 individuals, entities, aircraft and vessels.
In addition, G7 leaders and invited guests from several other counties are also expected to discuss how to deal with China’s growing military buildup, reported the Associated Press.
The move comes amid concerns that Beijing could try to seize the self governing island of Taiwan by force, sparking a wider conflict.
China claims Taiwan as a part of its own territory in line with its One China policy.
Why is Hiroshima important?
Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida kickstarted the summit from his constituency Hiroshima on Friday.
Mr Kishida wants nuclear disarmament to be a major focus of discussions at the summit.
G7 leaders formally started the summit at Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park which is dedicated to preserving reminders of 6 August 1945, when a US B-29 dropped an atomic bomb over the city killing an estimated 140,000 people.
On Thursday night, Mr Kishida held talks with US president Joe Biden and British prime minister Rishi Sunak.
In his opening remarks to Mr Biden, the Japanese leader said the Japan-US alliance is the “very foundation of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region”.
Japan, facing threats from China, Russia and North Korea, has been expanding its military.
It has 50,000 US troops stationed in the country along with the aid from the US’s military might.
Mr Sunak’s office said that, during his meeting with Mr Kishida, the two leaders announced a series of agreements on issues including defense, trade and investment, technology and the climate crisis.
Russia’s nuclear threats against Ukraine, along with North Korea’s ongoing missile tests and China’s rapidly expanding nuclear arsenal, have resonated with Japan’s push to make nuclear disarmament a major part of the summit.