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Friday, Aug. 29, 2008

G8 legislative leaders to gather in Hiroshima


Staff writer

OSAKA — Lower house speakers from the Group of Eight nations are gathering in Hiroshima next week, where the original plan was to discuss long-term peace and disarmament issues and the role of legislatures in strengthening nuclear nonproliferation.

But more recent, and urgent, peace and disarmament issues, including Russia's recognition of two breakaway regions from Georgia, the political crisis in Pakistan, a controversial bilateral nuclear deal between the U.S. and India, and North Korea's announcement that it will stop disabling its nuclear reactor in retaliation for America's refusal to delist it as a state sponsor of terrorism could end up dominating the talks.

The gathering will take place Monday and Tuesday, drawing lower house speakers from Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Italy and Russia, as well as the European Parliament president. it will be chaired by Yohei Kono, speaker of the Diet's House of Representatives.

Speakers will meet with Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda in Tokyo on Monday before heading to Hiroshima. On Tuesday, they will lay wreaths in Hiroshima Peace Park and tour the Hiroshima A-bomb museum, before sitting down to discuss peace and disarmament issues and the role of parliaments and legislatures.

But they will have to deal with the crisis between Russia and other G8 members over Moscow's recognition of the independence of two breakaway regions of Georgia — South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia is meanwhile angry with the U.S. for signing a deal with Poland last week that will create a U.S. missile defense system just 185 km from its border.

In addition, some G8 leaders will likely want to discuss peace and nonproliferation in the context of the current political crisis in nuclear-armed Pakistan, where the ruling coalition collapsed Monday, one week after President Pervez Musharraf resigned.

Pakistan is not a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Events in Pakistan have taken on added significance after last week's meeting of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group on whether to lift a trade ban on nuclear materials with India, another atomic weapons power, ended with disagreement over inspections of nuclear sites and what to do if India tests more nuclear weapons.

The NSG will meet again immediately after next week's gathering in Hiroshima, but time for a bilateral nuclear agreement between the U.S. and India is running out.

Without the NSG's backing, there can be no deal, which must be ratified by the U.S. Congress before the November presidential election.

Japan and the U.S. will also likely want to discuss Pyongyang's announcement Tuesday that it has stopped disabling its reactor at Yongbyon, reneging on its agreement under a deal last year in the six-party talks.

In late June, after Pyongyang delivered a report on its nuclear programs, the U.S. announced it would remove North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. But North Korea claims the U.S. broke its promise to delist.

The G8's lower house speakers come to Hiroshima just two months after the G8 summit in Hokkaido, which issued a progress report on a number of long-term projects to dismantle and decommission Cold War-era nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in Russia and Ukraine. In Hiroshima, the speakers are expected to reaffirm legislative commitments to these programs.



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The Japan Times

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