G7 agrees to issue clear signal over South China Sea, China opposes to hyping
Group of Seven (G7) leaders agreed on Thursday on the need to send a strong message on maritime claims in the western Pacific, where an increasingly assertive China is locked in territorial disputes with Japan and several Southeast Asian nations.
The agreement prompted a sharp rejoinder from China, which is not in the G7 club but whose rise as a power has put it at the heart of some discussions at the advanced nations’ summit in Ise-Shima, central Japan.
“Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe led discussion on the current situation in the South China Sea and East China Sea. Other G7 leaders said it is necessary for G7 to issue a clear signal,” Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko told reporters after a session on foreign policy affairs.
At a news conference late on Wednesday, Abe said Japan welcomed China’s peaceful rise while repeating Tokyo’s opposition to acts that try to change the status quo by force and urging respect of the rule of law – principles expected to be mentioned in a statement after the summit.
The United States is also increasingly concerned about China’s action in the region.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying retorted in Beijing that the South China Sea issue had “nothing to do” with the G7 or any of its members.
“China is resolutely opposed to individual countries hyping up the South China Sea for personal gain,” she said.
U.S. President Barack Obama called on China on Wednesday to resolve maritime disputes peacefully and he reiterated that the United States was simply concerned about freedom of navigation and overflight in the region.
Obama on Thursday pointed to the risks from North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, saying the isolated state was “hell bent” on getting atomic weapons.
But he said there had been improved responses from countries in the region like China that could reduce the risk of North Korea selling weapons or nuclear material.
“It’s something that we’ve put at the center of discussions and negotiations with China,” Obama told reporters.
GLOBAL HEALTH CHECK
The global economy topped the agenda earlier in the day, when G7 leaders voiced concern about emerging economies and Abe made a pointed comparison to the 2008 global financial crisis. Not all his G7 partners appeared to agree.
The G7 leaders did agree on the need for flexible spending to spur world growth but the timing and amount depended on each country, Seko told reporters, adding some countries saw no need for such spending. Britain and Germany have been resisting calls for fiscal stimulus.
“G7 leaders voiced the view that emerging economies are in a severe situation, although there were views that the current economic situation is not a crisis,” Seko said.
Abe presented data showing global commodities prices fell 55 percent from June 2014 to January 2016, the same margin as from July 2008 to February 2009, after the Lehman collapse.
Lehman had been Wall Street’s fourth-largest investment bank when it filed for Chapter 11 protection on Sept. 15, 2008, making its bankruptcy by far the biggest in U.S. history. Its failure triggered the global financial crisis.