Group of Seven leaders have agreed 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.
- Japan PM welcomes China’s peaceful rise
- Global economy dominates G7 talks
- Obama highlights risks of North Korea’s nuclear program
The agreement prompted a sharp response 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.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo 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.
“Prime Minister 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,” said Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko.
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.
US President Barack Obama this week called on China to resolve maritime disputes peacefully, reiterating that the United States was simply concerned about freedom of navigation and overflight in the region.
Mr Obama 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 centre of discussions and negotiations with China,” Mr Obama said.
Global economy dominates talks
The global economy topped the agenda earlier in proceedings, when G7 leaders voiced concern about emerging economies and Mr Abe made a pointed comparison to the 2008 global financial crisis.
Not all his G7 partners appeared to agree, but did agree on the need for flexible spending to spur world growth.
Bbut the timing and amount depended on each country, Mr Seko said, 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,” Mr Seko said.
Mr Abe presented data showing global commodities prices fell 55 per cent 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 in September 2008, making its bankruptcy by far the biggest in US history.
Its failure triggered the global financial crisis.
Domestic politics on the sidelines
Some political insiders say Mr Abe hopes to use a G7 statement on the global economy as cover for a domestic fiscal package, including the possible delay of a rise in the nation’s sales tax to 10 per cent from 8 per cent planned for next April.
Mr Obama also ripped into Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, saying the billionaire had rattled other G7 leaders and that his statements were aimed at getting headlines, not what was needed to keep America safe and the world on an even keel.
Mr Trump has been accused of racism, misogyny and bigotry for saying he would build a giant wall to keep out illegal Mexican immigrants, would temporarily ban Muslims from the United States, and after he made a series of comments considered demeaning to women.
Mr Abe met Mr Obama for talks dominated by the arrest of a US military base civilian worker in connection with the killing of a young woman on Japan’s southern Okinawa island, a reluctant host to the bulk of the US military in Japan.
The attack has marred the US leader’s hopes of keeping his Japan trip strictly focused on his visit on Friday to Hiroshima, the site of the world’s first atomic bombing, to highlight reconciliation between the two former World War II foes and his nuclear anti-proliferation agenda.