World leaders warn China, North Korea about nukes as Ukraine’s Zelenskyy heads to G7 summit

HIROSHIMA, Japan — The leaders of the world’s most powerful democracies warned China and North Korea against building up their nuclear arsenals and drew attention to major crises in Northeast Asia ahead of the arrival of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi later on Saturday.

Asia will take center stage at the Group of Seven summit as leaders tighten sanctions aimed at punishing Moscow and reversing the course of its 15-month invasion of Ukraine. Japan confirmed that Zelensky’s visit to Hiroshima stemmed from his “strong desire” to participate in talks that will affect his nation’s defense against Russia.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said President Joe Biden and Zelenskyi would attend the summit directly, a day after Biden announced his support for training Ukrainian pilots on US-made F-16 fighter jets, a precursor for these aircraft to be eventually provided by the Air Force of Ukraine.

World leaders face high stakes at the G7 meeting in Hiroshima as they seek to address a range of global concerns that require urgent attention, including climate change, artificial intelligence, poverty and economic instability, nuclear proliferation and, above all, the war in Ukraine .

China, the world’s second largest economy, has many such concerns.

Concerns are growing in Asia that Beijing, which is steadily building up its nuclear weapons program, may try to seize Taiwan by force, sparking a wider conflict. China claims the independent island as its own and regularly sends ships and warplanes near it.

G7 leaders issued a statement warning that China’s “accelerating build-up of its nuclear arsenal without transparency (or meaningful dialogue) is a concern for global and regional stability.”

“We seek to work with China on issues of mutual interest,” Sullivan said of the statement. “We will work to address our significant concerns about China in a number of areas.”

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North Korea, which is rapidly testing missiles to perfect a nuclear program aimed at the US mainland, must completely abandon its nuclear bomb ambitions, the leaders said in a statement, “including any further nuclear tests or launches. which use ballistic missile technology. North Korea cannot and will never have nuclear-weapon state status under international nuclear treaties.

The green light for the F-16 training is the latest shift by the Biden administration as it supplies Ukraine with more advanced and lethal weapons, following earlier decisions to send missile systems and Abrams tanks. The United States has insisted on sending weapons to Ukraine to defend itself and has deterred Ukraine’s attacks on Russian territory.

“We’ve come to a point where we need to look down the road again to say what Ukraine will need as part of a future force to deter and defend against Russian aggression as we go forward,” Sullivan said. .

An EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Zelensky would attend two separate meetings on Sunday. The first meeting is attended by only G7 members and focuses on the war in Ukraine. The second session will involve the G7 and other nations invited to the summit and will focus on “peace and stability”.

G7 leaders have introduced a new wave of global sanctions against Moscow, as well as plans to increase the effectiveness of current financial sanctions that limit President Vladimir Putin’s war effort. Russia is currently the most sanctioned country in the world, but there are questions about its effectiveness.

“Our support for Ukraine will not waver,” the G7 leaders said in a statement issued after closed-door meetings. They vowed to “stand together against Russia’s illegal, unjustified and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine.”

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“Russia started this war and can end it,” they said.

Zelensky is constantly calling for Western fighter jets to strengthen his country’s defense. As Ukraine has improved its air defenses with several Western-supplied air defense systems and prepares for a counterattack against Russia, officials believe the planes could be essential to the country’s long-term security.

Biden’s decisions on when, how many and who will deliver the fourth-generation F-16 fighter jets will be made in the coming months while training is underway, Biden told the leaders.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida held separate talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, which will host a meeting of G20 world leaders later this year. At their meeting, Kishida emphasized that attempts at violent change should not be tolerated anywhere in the world – this is a possible reference to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and China’s warning about Taiwan.

India, the world’s largest democracy, has been cautious about the war in Ukraine and has avoided outright condemnation of the Russian invasion. While India maintains close ties with the United States and its Western allies, it is also a major buyer of Russian arms and oil.

The latest sanctions against Russia include tighter restrictions on already sanctioned individuals and companies from the war effort. More than 125 individuals and organizations in 20 countries have been hit by US sanctions.

In addition, new reporting requirements were introduced for individuals and companies with interests in the assets of the Russian central bank. The goal is to “fully trace Russian sovereign assets that will remain under the jurisdiction of the G7 until Russia pays for damages to Ukraine,” the U.S. Treasury Department said.

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The G7 nations said they would work to prevent Russia from using the international financial system to pursue its war and called on other nations to stop supporting and arming Russia “or face heavy costs.”

The leaders began the summit by visiting a peace park dedicated to the tens of thousands who died in the world’s first atomic bombing of war. Kishida, who represents Hiroshima in parliament, wants nuclear disarmament to be at the center of the talks.

Biden, who scrapped plans to travel to Papua New Guinea and Australia after his stay in Japan to return to debt-limit talks in Washington, had arranged to meet with leaders of the so-called Quad on the sidelines of the G-7 on Saturday. a partnership consisting of Japan, Australia, India and the United States.

G7 leaders will discuss efforts to strengthen the global economy and address rising prices that are straining families and government budgets around the world, particularly in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

A US official said the leaders would issue a joint statement on Saturday outlining new projects in the G7’s global infrastructure development initiative aimed at offering countries an alternative to Chinese investment dollars.

The G7 includes Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada and Italy, as well as the European Union.


Associated Press writers Josh Boak, Elaine Kurtenbach and Mari Yamaguchi contributed to this report in Hiroshima.