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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will attend the G-7 meeting in person


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is making an appearance at the G-7 meeting in Japan, either in person or virtually. That part is still unclear.


What is clear is that as Ukraine prepares for its counteroffensive against Russia, Zelenskyy is making an effort to rally support from the world's wealthiest nations. Host nation Japan is also trying to forge consensus among the leaders on issues that include nuclear weapons and China's more aggressive policies.

FADEL: NPR's Anthony Kuhn is in Hiroshima and joins us for an update.

Good morning.


FADEL: OK. So we're getting mixed messages on whether Zelenskyy is going to be there in person or virtually. But what does he expect to get out of his appearance in front of G-7 leaders?

KUHN: Well, as you said, it's a bit unclear. The head of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council told national TV that Zelenskyy needs to be here in Hiroshima because important decisions will be made. But Zelenskyy's office says he'll attend virtually. Japan's government hasn't confirmed either option. But at any rate, G-7 meetings leading up to today's summit have already seen officials recommit to supporting Ukraine militarily and financially for as long as it takes. We don't know how long it could take. We don't know whether this aid will prove decisive on the battlefield. Certainly, if Zelenskyy makes Japan his first trip to Asia since Russia's invasion, that would certainly be a good optic for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who's trying to show leadership on Ukraine.

FADEL: Now, Japan is also trying to craft a united approach to China. What does that look like?

KUHN: Well, Prime Minister Kishida is emphasizing that China must act responsibly and not try to change the status quo, such as on Taiwan, by force. But like the Biden administration, Tokyo also wants to engage with Beijing. I spoke to Cabinet Secretary for Public Affairs Noriyuki Shikata. And here's how he put it.

NORIYUKI SHIKATA: There are areas, you know, where there could be cooperation on global issues, such as, you know, global health issues, climate change. So that's why, you know, we are talking about this, building constructive and stable relationship.

KUHN: But we should note, though, that China still mostly sees the G-7 as a bunch of Western nations ganging up on it.

FADEL: Now, you're in Hiroshima, where the G-7 summit is happening. What's the significance of the actual city, the venue, where it's being held?

KUHN: Well, Hiroshima was the first city to suffer a nuclear attack in 1945. And Japan is trying to use that powerful symbolism to unite G-7 leaders on global challenges, including nuclear weapons. So the leaders visited the Peace park here near ground zero. They visited a museum and spoke to a survivor of the attack, an 85-year-old woman who told them that such a disaster must never be repeated. Japan definitely has a special role to play in pushing for the elimination of nuclear weapons. But it's really difficult because at the same time, Japan relies on U.S. nuclear weapons for its security.

FADEL: Speaking of the U.S., President Biden is there in Japan. But he did cancel the rest of his trip to Australia, then Papua New Guinea to get back here over the debt ceiling crisis. How has that news been received there in Asia?

KUHN: Yeah, there's some disappointment here. But it's not the first time that's happened. I spoke to Brad Glosserman, who is a deputy director at the Tama University Center for Rule-Making Strategies in Tokyo. And here's what he said.

BRAD GLOSSERMAN: I very rarely, if ever, in fact, see a non-U.S. voice, particularly from the region, saying, oh, my God, this is the end of American leadership. Or this is a real body blow to American credibility. It's more like, OK, here we go again.

KUHN: And of course, as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told the G-7, a U.S. debt default could trigger a global economic downturn. So I think many observers in Asia are just fine with Biden heading home to prevent that from happening.

FADEL: That's NPR's Anthony Kuhn joining us from Hiroshima, Japan.

Thank you.

KUHN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.