Thousands rallied in northern Japan calling for the G8 rich industrialised nations to be disbanded on Saturday while in Paris, member France called for the group to grow to include major emerging states such as China and India.
In Sapporo, several thousand people protested against the annual Group of Eight summit due to take place at a luxury hotel 70km away.
The 90-minute march by Japanese and foreign activists took place under heavy security ahead of the July 7-9 meeting at the hot spring and lake resort of Toyako.
The protesters banged drums and carried colourful banners proclaiming “Shut Down the G8” and yelled: “We are against a summit of rich nations”.
Four Japanese men were arrested for violating the public safety ordinances or interfering with police activities.
In Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for the meeting to include China and India as well as representatives from Latin America, Africa and West Asia, saying the world today was “multipolar”.
“I think it is not reasonable to continue to meet as eight to solve the big questions of the world, forgetting China — 1 billion, 300 million people — and not inviting India — 1 billion people,” he told a conference of the ruling UMP party.
The G8 includes the US, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia.
“The truth is that if we want peace and world development, everybody needs to be invited,” Sarkozy said.
“I do not accept that a continent of 1 billion people like Africa does not have a country to represent it at the table of world leaders.”
Sarkozy has said more than once that he thinks the group should be expanded. He did not detail on Saturday how the structure should be changed, however.
This year’s G8 host, Japan, argues that the current size works well, with other countries brought into the group for discussions on specific issues. In all, 22 leaders are attending next week’s meetings in Hokkaido.
“We cherish this format for G8”, a senior Japanese government official told reporters this week, adding that the G8 countries “share common values”.
The G8 nations will meet eight other countries, including China, India and Brazil, in an expanded Major Economies Meeting (MEM) on July 9 to look at long-term targets for climate change.
Environmentalists are urging the G8 to set bold targets for cutting C02 emissions by 2050 and interim goals for how to get there in order to boost momentum for UN-led talks on a new framework for after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Those talks are set to end in Copenhagen next year.