US President Joe Biden and Fumio Kishida, Japan's prime minister, during a photo session prior to a bilateral meeting ahead of the Group of Seven (G7) leaders' summit in Hiroshima, Japan, on May 18, 2023. Image Credit: Bloomberg

HIROSHIMA: World leaders landed Thursday for a Group of Seven (G7) meeting in Hiroshima, the site of the world’s first atomic bomb attack, with Russia’s war in Ukraine expected to be high on the agenda.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida kicked off his summit diplomacy by meeting with US President Joe Biden after his arrival at a nearby military base. He was due to hold talks with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak a bit later in the day, before the three-day gathering of leaders of the world’s wealthy democracies opens on Friday.

The Japan-US alliance is the “very foundation of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region,” Kishida told Biden in opening remarks.

“We very much welcome that the cooperation has evolved in leaps and bounds,” he said.

Biden said: “When our countries stand together, we stand stronger, and I believe the whole world is safer when we do.”

The US president exited Air Force One and briefly greeted troops at nearby Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.

As G7 attendees made their way to Hiroshima, Moscow unleashed yet another aerial attack on the Ukrainian capital. Loud explosions thundered through Kyiv during the early hours, marking the ninth time this month that Russian air raids have targeted the city after weeks of relative quiet.

“The crisis in Ukraine: I’m sure that’s what the conversation is going to start with,” said Matthew P. Goodman, senior vice president for economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, said there will be “discussions about the battlefield” in Ukraine and on the “state of play on sanctions and the steps that the G-7 will collectively commit to on enforcement in particular.”

Security was tight in Hiroshima, with thousands of police deployed at numerous points throughout the city. A small group of protesters was considerably outnumbered by police as they gathered Wednesday evening beside the ruins of the Atomic Peace Dome memorial, holding signs including one which read “No G7 Imperialist Summit!”

In a bit of dueling diplomacy, Chinese President Xi Jinping is hosting the leaders of the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan for a two-day summit in the Chinese city of Xi’an starting Thursday.

During the meeting in Hiroshima, Kishida hopes to highlight the risks of nuclear proliferation. Leaders are expected to visit a memorial park that commemorates the 1945 atomic bombing by the US that destroyed the city and killed 140,000 people.

North Korea’s nuclear programme and a spate of recent missile tests have crystalized fears of an potential attack. So have Russia’s threats to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

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