Photo/Illutration Indonesian President Joko Widodo responds to a question in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun on May 18 in Bogor, Indonesia. (Nobuo Fujiwara)

BOGOR, Indonesia--Indonesian President Joko Widodo will call on the nuclear powers at the Group of Seven summit being held in Japan to destroy their nuclear arsenals.

In an exclusive interview with The Asahi Shimbun at Bogor on May 18, Joko said: “The Indonesian position is clear and firm. Nuclear weapons must be destroyed because they are a threat in the world.”

Joko and leaders of seven other non-member nations were invited to the G-7 summit that began May 19 in Hiroshima. 

“Hiroshima is the symbol of peace,” Joko said. “I'm very happy that the G-7 is held in Hiroshima. This is very important.”

Joko was due to arrive May 19 for his first visit to this western Japan city. He expressed an interest in visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is planning to escort the leaders of the invited nations to the museum on May 21.

Indonesia, along with the other ASEAN nations, has signed the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone.

But greater concerns about the possible use of nuclear weapons have been raised with threats by Russia in its war against Ukraine.

“The use of nuclear weapons cannot be tolerated,” Joko said. “Indonesia continues to fight for nuclear disarmament and only supports the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.”

Indonesia’s foreign policy is non-alignment and neutrality, which the government describes as “free and active.” For example, Jakarta has refused to take sides in the war between Russia and Ukraine, and Joko himself has met with both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin to promote dialogue between the two nations.

Joko became the first Asian leader to visit the two nations in June 2022.

Indonesia’s neutral stance means it has not gone along with economic sanctions against Russia pushed by the United States and adopted by Western allies.

“The war (has been in place) one year already and (sanctions have not proved) effective to stop the war,” Joko said. “Dialogue is very important, and it must continue to be maintained.”

He added that Indonesia was prepared to serve as a bridge between Russia and Ukraine.

“Indonesia stands ready to contribute to bridge the differences and the collective leadership required to end the war,” Joko said. “Peace must be reached as soon as possible because in the end, the people are the victims.”

Indonesia was invited to the G-7 summit because it is considered one of the leaders of the Global South, mainly developing nations located in the Southern Hemisphere

Pointing out that the Global South accounts for 85 percent of the world’s population, Joko said, “The rights of the Global South to development must be respected.”

But he added that such development should extend beyond simply exporting natural resources and move toward development of processing industries that can provide added value to products.

“Indonesia aims to promote equal and inclusive cooperation with all (nations),” Joko said.

Referring to growing confrontation between the United States and China in the Asia-Pacific region, Joko emphasized that Indonesia continues with its “non-bloc” stance.

“Many said that Indonesia is close with the United States,” the Indonesian president said. “Many also said that Indonesia is close with China. I want to say that both statements are correct. The United States and China are important partners of Indonesia, just like Japan.”

At the same time, he did not ignore the territorial issues that exist between China and ASEAN members in the South China Sea.

“Respect of international law is very important,” Joko said. “This is the key in creating peace and stability in the South China Sea.”

He added that there was a need to expediently compile a code of conduct to prevent conflicts from occurring in the South China Sea, which is being worked on within the ASEAN platform.

Turning to economic ties between Japan and Indonesia, Joko urged Tokyo to lift its game as China, South Korea and Germany, among other nations, were also making forays in his country.

While acknowledging that Japan has been a good partner for Indonesia, Joko said in the future it had to be “more aggressive and quicker.”

(This article was written by Yoshiaki Kasuga, Naoko Handa and Tadao Onaga. Rizki Akbar Hasan contributed to this story.)