Ise-Shima Summit Kicks Off
May 26, 2016
Leaders of the Group of Seven countries are holding their annual once-a-year meeting, this time in Ise-Shima, central Japan.
Topping the agenda, naturally, is how to tackle slowing global economic growth. But they're also talking about other global issues: the crisis in Syria, China's increasingly aggressive maritime activities, and North Korea.
Media from many countries have gathered at the nearby International Media Center. They're trying to find out what solutions for pressing global issues the leaders of the US, the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Canada and Japan will come up with.
The meeting kicked off Friday. The leaders have finished their sessions about the global economy. Now they're holding a working dinner and continuing to discuss political issues.
G7 leaders arrived one after another at an international airport in Aichi Prefecture on their way to the Ise-Shima summit on Friday morning.
Japanese police said they would deploy as many as 23,000 officers around the summit venue. The number is larger than that for the 2008 summit in Hokkaido.
Some participants arrived in Japan earlier. Ahead of today's meetings, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke one-on-one with leaders from the US, the UK and Canada about bilateral and global issues.
Abe said he lodged a protest with US President Barack Obama over an incident on the southern island of Okinawa. Police say a former US Marine has admitted to stabbing and strangling a Japanese woman there.
"This case shocked not only Okinawa, but also the whole of Japan," Abe said. "I urged the United States to make sure to take effective and thorough steps to prevent a recurrence and vigorously and strictly address the situation."
"We will be fully cooperating with the Japanese legal system in prosecuting this individual and making sure that justice is served," Obama said.
There were plenty of people out on the streets to welcome the leaders.
"I saw Obama! Just a glimpse but I saw him," said one woman.
Shortly before 11 a.m., the G7 Ise-Shima summit officially started, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe greeting other leaders at Ise Shrine. The shrine is dedicated to the sun goddess and the deity of agriculture and industry.
"So happy to see you all again. I'm very glad you have come here," Abe said.
The leaders strolled in the shrine's garden, and planted trees to commemorate their visit.
After the visit, the leaders headed to lunch, where they started the first session. They discussed ways to maintain sustainable growth of the global economy.
Showing data, Abe said the current state of the global economy is similar to one before the 2008 financial crisis. There are discussions about what kind of measures they should take. Abe will try to find common ground so the G7 can present a unified stance.
About 6,000 journalists have come from all over the world to cover the summit. They expressed various expectations for the meetings.
"One is the issue of migration, because we have had a lot of migration. And I wish to have some aid from the rest of the world, especially financially, to help with all the migrants who are arriving," said one Danish correspondent.
The second session focused on trade. Leaders discussed ways to promote free trade, including the TPP or Trans-Pacific Partnership pact.
Then in the third session, leaders focused on the situation in East Asia. A senior Japanese officials says that the leaders discussed China's recent maritime activities and shared their concern.
Let's start with one of the key items on the agenda of the G7 leaders: the political and diplomatic challenges facing the world.
They are focusing on the fight against terrorism, which is also an issue that Japan is emphasizing as the chair of the summit.
Attacks by Islamic State militants and other extremists have been all too frequent since last year's Group of Seven summit.
Terrorists struck Paris last November. Brussels Airport was targeted in March. European nations were criticized for not sharing intelligence on terrorists who were in hiding or moving around the region.
Leaders attending the summit in Ise-Shima will put together an action plan to fight terrorism and violent extremism.
It's expected to urge increased use of existing measures, including using Interpol databases, monitoring flight reservations, and funds controls.
The document may also call for strengthening moderate opinions to counter extremism.
As the host of the summit, Japan is placing importance on China's increased maritime activities and North Korea's nuclear program.
G7 foreign ministers released a document on maritime security in April. It didn't mention China by name. But the document expressed concern about the situation in the South and East China seas. It opposed unilateral actions such as landfill work and construction of military facilities.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson reacted sharply.
"If the G7 thinks its statement is important, globally influential and can put pressure on China, we could say its members are just keeping such pleasures for themselves," says Lu Kang, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry.
Lu said G7 countries should focus on economic matters and not stir up regional tensions.
As for North Korea, Kim Jong Un described his country as a nuclear weapons state during the ruling party's recent congress.
"Today, our country possesses the hydrogen bomb. We will smash the threats from imperialists," Kim said. "North Korea is a responsible nuclear power. We are showing that power to the world."
He said Pyongyang will continue its nuclear and missile development programs.
The world economy is a major issue at this year's summit. But members are divided on how to tackle the slowdown.
When the financial crisis of 2008 triggered a global economic downturn, China led the drive toward recovery through fiscal spending.
The Chinese government invested about $600 billion in public works and other projects, and created demand. And the global economy began recovering by exporting to China.
But now China's economy is running out of steam. That, coupled with low crude oil prices, has hurt other countries as well.
The G7 countries can no longer rely on China to drive economic growth.
"We hope to send a clear and strong message to allow G7 nations to lead efforts toward solid and sustainable growth of the global economy," Abe said.
During Abe's visit to Europe in early May, Japan was trying to give the flagging global economy a boost by having G7 members coordinate their public spending policies. The leaders of Italy and France agreed to his idea.
"We are confident in the global economy but we also support investment of various kinds," said French President Francois Hollande.
But the views of G7 members differ on the issue. Germany, in particular, is opposed to increasing government expenditure, despite having trade and fiscal surpluses.
"The global economy is not as bad as some people say. It was expected that problems that would arise when China tried to transform its economic structure," said German Finance Minister Wolfgang Shaeuble.
The German constitution was amended in 2009. It stipulates that by 2020 the government will be legally forbidden to run a deficit at all.
One economist says the German government does not believe additional expenditure will improve the economy.
"I think the strong belief is that there are some structural problems in many different countries, that countries are very different concerning the economic conditions and therefore you have to target issues and you have to be very to differentiated and be very specific in measures you take," says Franz Waldenberger, of the German Institute for Japanese Studies.
"I think it's more like looking more on the supply side. All the deficit spending and so on has been trying to stimulate demand, also the monetary policy are I think at the limits. And so, one has to more look the structural issues," he says.
Last week, the G7 finance ministers were unable to agree on the issue of public spending, leaving the direction of the summit very much uncertain.
Obama's Historic Visit
One the G7 summit wraps up, US President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima on Friday.
The city was devastated by a single atomic bomb, dropped by US plane in 1945. By the end of that year, 140,000 people had died from the effects of the bomb. Most were civilians, including children.
Today, the city has been rebuilt and is home to over one million people.
People in Hiroshima are awaiting Obama's visit. Many are expressing words of welcome, as well as hopes for what the visit will achieve.
A group of high school students wrote a letter to the US president when they learned about his upcoming visit.
"We hope his visit to Hiroshima will be the first step toward achieving peace, and reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world," says one high school student in the city.
A-bomb survivors recently gathered for a meeting. About 100 people attended. One participant said he wants the visit to send a message to the rest of the world, encouraging people to think about what they can do to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
A survivors' organization says 3 of the survivors will accompany Obama when he lays flowers at a cenotaph.
"We'll root for you, Mr. President. Let us work together. Let us bring wisdom into the future."
Along with the welcoming mood of the city, security has been tightened to an unprecedented level. Local police have been joined by officers from outside the region.
A total of 4,600 officers are on alert. Officers are closely guarding Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park, which the US president is scheduled to visit.
They have been checking nearby roads and areas around the clock.
Sewers and manholes have been checked to make sure no explosives or suspicious objects are present.
Public transport security has also been increased. Trash bins at train stations throughout the city have been removed or sealed -- to prevent them from being used to hide explosives. Coin lockers are also out of service. Security is very tight everywhere throughout the city.
NHK Poll: Survivors Welcome Visit
The city of Hiroshima has become a symbol of the international movement to ban nuclear arms. The people of the city have long hoped for a visit from a US president.
NHK surveyed survivors of the bombing. And an overwhelming majority says they welcome Obama's visit.
More than 200 survivors who still live in the city responded to the poll earlier this month.
Ninety-three percent said they view the visit as either "good" or "very good." They said the US president seeing what happened to the city is significant. Others praised Obama for making the decision, despite the fact that some Americans oppose the visit.
The survey also asked respondents what they think Obama should do during his time in Hiroshima, and allowed for multiple answers.
More than 80 percent of respondents said Obama should tour the Peace Memorial Museum, which has displays detailing the destruction caused by the bomb.
Sixty-eight percent said Obama should make a speech on abolishing nuclear weapons. Fifty-eight percent said he should talk with survivors.
But only 14 percent say they want Obama to offer them an apology.
Kazumi Mizumoto, an expert on nuclear disarmament, reviewed the poll results. He said it seems many of the survivors aren't dwelling on the past, or have forgiven those responsible for the bombing.
"They want President Obama to see the reality in Hiroshima. And they want him to take concrete action toward nuclear disarmament based on his own experiences in the city," said Kazumi Mizumoto, vice-president of the Hiroshima Peace Institute.
Mizumoto said many survivors appear to have a strong desire that Obama will help rid the world of nuclear arms.
A Survivor's Perspective
Survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known as "Hibakusha" in Japanese.
The term literally translates as "persons affected by the explosions." Today, many Hibakusha are involved in peace movements and want world leaders to eliminate nuclear weapons.
One of them is Shizuko Abe, who founded an organization of survivors. She shared her experience, and her thoughts on Obama's upcoming visit.
"I place a motherly hand, warm as the sunlight at 10 am, on the victims of the bomb, who in sadness and suffering have forgotten how to smile, hoping they're happy to be alive," she said, reading a poem she wrote 60 years ago.
Abe was an 18-year-old newlywed when the bomb was dropped. She was working just 1.5 kilometers from ground zero.
The right half of her body was severely burned. She was operated on 18 times. But the scars on her face didn’t heal. Her right hand was disabled.
"I had red scars for many years, because the atomic bomb was extremely hot. It was very difficult to live looking like that, especially as a woman. I often thought that I would have suffered less if I had been killed," Abe said.
Abe experienced discrimination and prejudice after the war. Not knowing where to direct her anger, she wrote a letter to a well-known public figure.
"I sent a letter to General MacArthur, telling him about my background and how much I'd been suffering. After a few days, I received a response in English. It suggested I visit the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission, or ABCC, a facility created for bomb victims in Hiroshima," Abe said.
The US government set up the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission in 1947. It collected data from survivors to determine the effects of radiation on the human body.
"I went to the ABCC filled with hope. The staff there did lots of examinations, and I told them how I had grown more susceptible to colds, and how it took about a month to recover, but they didn’t give me any medication. All they did was perform tests," Abe said.
In 1964, Abe took part in a project called Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Ambassadors of World Peace. It took groups of bomb victims abroad to discuss their experiences.
Abe says her perception of Americans changed after she stayed with families in the US.
"The host families welcomed me very warmly, and I discovered that they led calm, peaceful lives," Abe said. "I realized that it was the US military that bombed us, and ordinary US citizens were not responsible at all. I began to think that I should work hard to make sure these people would not experience what the people in Hiroshima went through."
After returning from the US, Abe gave many talks about the effects of the bomb. Her audiences included Japanese people and visitors from other countries.
"Even though I can only watch it on my television screen, I'm glad to be alive to see this day, when the president visits Hiroshima to express his intention to abolish nuclear weapons in the US. I hope to welcome Mr. Obama calmly and erase all my sadness and suffering," Abe said. "I await this visit with the hope that the president will build a peaceful world without nuclear weapons."
In the US, there were some expectations that Obama would be joined on the trip by a veteran who was a prisoner of war in Japan. But a US veterans group says that will not happen.
The head of the group called the decision "regrettable." Jan Thompson told NHK that sending a former POW would have been a powerful symbol of reconciliation.
She said it was a loss for the United States and its alliance with Japan.
The group said it was planning to send a 94-year-old veteran who was held by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War Two.
An official at the White House told NHK they were merely considering inviting a former POW but decided not to.
NHK has learned that President Obama is scheduled to meet with some survivors. He will listen to their stories of how the bomb affected their lives.