The Group of Seven leaders meeting in Mie Prefecture this week will express “strong opposition” to island construction and militarization of outposts in the South China Sea, offering a veiled criticism of Beijing asserting its claims to disputed islands and atolls, according to G-7 sources.
The leaders, without singling out China, will dismiss “unilateral actions that could alter the status quo” in a declaration to be issued after their two-day summit wraps up Friday, the sources said Monday.
While Japan and the United States are alarmed by China’s military buildup and muscle-flexing in the South and East China seas, European countries have focused more on boosting economic relations with Beijing, making it difficult for them to openly criticize the world’s second-largest economy.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is eager to show a unified response with his G-7 peers to China’s attempts to force a shift in the status quo in the South China Sea, where Beijing is engaged in territorial disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
The Ise-Shima summit will bring together the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, as well as the European Union.
The leaders will express opposition to “intimidation, coercion or use of force” in asserting territorial claims, and call for peaceful management and settlement of maritime disputes in accordance with international law, according to the sources.
Observers will closely watch how the Chinese leadership under President Xi Jinping responds to references to maritime security in the G-7 leaders’ declaration.
China has rejected U.S., Japanese and other third-party intervention in its South China Sea territorial disputes and repeated its preference to negotiate bilaterally with other claimants, apparently in an attempt to overwhelm them individually with its economic might.
Japan is not a claimant in the South China Sea, but it is embroiled in the Senkaku Islands row with Beijing in the East China Sea.
At the summit, the G-7 leaders will “express concern” about tensions in the East China Sea in a veiled reference to repeated intrusions by Chinese government ships into Japanese waters around the Senkaku chain.
Among other issues, the leaders will reiterate that the G-7 will never recognize Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine in March 2014 and affirm continued sanctions on Moscow, according to the sources.
They will also call for “full implementation” of U.N. sanctions on North Korea as mandated by Security Council resolutions over the country’s missile and nuclear weapons development, they said.
They will similarly call for the international community’s unity in the fight against Islamic State extremists operating in the Middle East, the sources said.