President Zelensky to attend G7 Japan summit in person

HIROSHIMA, Japan — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is scheduled to attend the Group of Seven nations summit in person, significantly amplifying his warnings about Russia’s potential to escalate the war in Ukraine by visiting Hiroshima, the site of nuclear destruction in World War II.

Zelensky, who has displayed a knack for understanding symbolism and capturing the world’s attention, has been pressing for more Western support for planes and military equipment, and earned new commitments for billions of dollars in additional military support during his recent trips to Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom — all G-7 members.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Thursday that Zelensky was scheduled to attend virtually during the leaders’ meeting on Sunday, but the Ukrainian leader is now set to come to Hiroshima for the summit, according to people familiar with the plans. It is not yet confirmed which day he will attend.

The Financial Times first reported the news of Zelensky’s visit.

Zelenky’s first post-invasion trip out of Ukraine was in December, when he made a secret visit to Washington to meet with President Biden at the White House and deliver an address to Congress. Zelensky’s trip this weekend would be his first to Asia since the invasion.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is one of the top items on the agenda at the gathering this weekend.

At Hiroshima summit, Japan to push against nukes — but world disagrees

Biden had initially set out on a three-country swing through the Indo-Pacific aimed at countering China’s growing influence and economic expansion throughout the region. But Zelensky’s in-person visit — combined with Biden having to cancel stops in Papua New Guinea and Australia to fly home to deal with an ongoing debt crisis — are in the near term likely to overshadow the U.S. president’s efforts to focus the world’s largest democracies on countering China.

Ahead of Biden’s arrival in Japan, U.S. officials said support for Ukraine would be a major focus of the economic summit.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine looms large and will be a significant topic of conversation,” Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, told reporters aboard Air Force One.

“There will be discussions about the state of play on the battlefield,” Sullivan said. “There will be discussions about the state of play on sanctions and the steps that the G-7 will collectively commit to on enforcement in particular, making sure that we are shutting down evasion networks, closing loopholes in the sanctions so that the impact is amplified and magnified in the months ahead. And the U.S. will have a package of sanctions associated with a G-7 statement that will center on this enforcement issue.”

Gathering here Friday, world leaders kicked off their summit with a symbolic visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, paying respects to the victims of the United States’ atomic bombing in 1945.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has raised global fears over the potential use of nuclear weapons, as President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials have repeatedly hinted at a willingness to deploy them. Moscow in February suspended its participation in New START, the last major arms control treaty with the United States, and top Russian officials have warned of a growing risk of “nuclear apocalypse.”

The leaders of the world’s largest economic powers also announced new sanctions on Russia, attempting to punish the country for the invasion, as the G-7 summit was dominated by the war for the second year in a row.

The new measures from the United States will expand the number of entities who can be sanctioned for dealing with Russia. “We will continue to expand export controls to make it even harder for Russia to sustain its war machine,” a senior administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity ahead of the formal announcement.

“This involves extensively restricting categories of goods key to the battlefield, and also cutting off roughly 70 entities from Russia and third countries from receiving U.S. exports by adding them to the Commerce blacklist,” the official added.

Biden launches Asia trip this week aimed at taking on China

The new package will also include upward of 300 new sanctions against individuals, entities, vessels and aircraft.

“These will go after circumvention. These will go after financial facilitators, as well as future energy and extractive capabilities of Russia and other actors helping to support the war,” the official said. “This will include designations across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.”

Japan’s prime minister hopes that by hosting the summit in Hiroshima, a place forever associated with nuclear attack, he will be able to reaffirm the G-7’s support for a “world free of nuclear weapons.”

“With regards to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, we agreed to work closely with G-7 and other like-minded countries, and continue to impose strict sanctions against Russia and provide strong support for Ukraine,” Kishida told reporters.

Julia Mio Inuma contributed reporting from Hiroshima, Japan.

2023-05-19 05:26:50