Kishida pushes rule of law in U.S.-led democracy summit

by Mar 30, 2023Featured Article, News

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Wednesday the rule of law is the absolute minimum that the international community needs to maintain for durable peace, as he took part in a virtual summit on democracy led by the United States, by recounting his recent visit to Ukraine.

On the opening day of the two-day event involving about 120 countries, civil society groups and technology companies, Kishida vowed to take a leading role in strengthening democracy as this year’s chair of the Group of Seven summit and a nonpermanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

“I saw with my own eyes evidence of Russia’s aggression and heard directly from those who had experienced atrocities,” Kishida said. “I renewed my conviction that we humankind must position the rule of law as a norm that our society should follow.”

The Summit for Democracy, hosted by the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden for the second time, comes as competition intensifies between the United States and what it describes as autocracies such as China and Russia.

In the name of defending democracy and human rights against authoritarianism, Biden convened the first such summit in December 2021, which was before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We’re holding Russia accountable for its unjust and unprovoked war against Ukraine, showing that democracies are strong and resolved,” Biden said in his brief opening remarks.

Biden later pledged that his administration will plan to spend up to $690 million in new funding to promote democracy and help combat corruption around the world.

“This is a turning point for our world toward greater freedom, greater dignity and greater democracy,” he said. “Democracy is hard work. The work of democracy is never finished.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attended the session hosted by Biden, passionately calling for more support for his country’s military and urging the global community to put stronger pressure on Russia.

“Democracy needs a victory now, this year, not some other time, not over time,” Zelenskyy said.

Last week, Kishida made an unannounced visit to Kyiv after a trip to India and held talks with Zelenskyy. The visit gave him a firsthand look at the country that has resisted Russia’s aggression since the war started in February last year.

In his remarks at the summit, Kishida also criticized North Korea for its abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s, describing the long-standing issue as a universal problem that violated “basic human rights.”

“People who suffer the most from the absence of the rule of law are those in fragile states or environments,” he said. “It is imperative that we all reaffirm and promote the minimum basic principles that the international community should uphold, because only then can we build peace globally.”

As the first summit met some criticism that the format was too U.S.-centric, the Biden administration this time chose co-hosts from each continent. China and Russia were not invited to both meetings and official media of the two countries have run stories that this kind of summit is meaningless.

The co-hosts are Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves Robles, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema.

Like many other leaders, Yoon warned that attempts by some countries to change the status quo by force are threatening freedom and the rapid spread of fake news with the advancement of technology is intimidating democracy. He said that South Korea will host the next summit.

When Kishida chairs the G7 summit for three days from May 19 in Hiroshima, he will seek to demonstrate the group of major democratic economies’ commitment to supporting Ukraine.

Kishida, elected to parliament from a constituency in Hiroshima, has pledged to pitch his vision of a world without nuclear weapons amid fears that Russia could use an atomic device against its western neighbor in the ongoing war.

The Japanese city was devastated by a U.S. atomic bomb in August 1945.