G7 foreign ministers delivered a show of unity Monday at a meeting in Japan, vowing to continue pressuring Russia to withdraw from Ukraine and condemning Chinese aggression toward Taiwan.
Speaking in the resort town of Karuizawa, Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said the G7 would “firmly reject any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force” in the Taiwan Strait and defy “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, as well as its threat of use of nuclear weapons.”
“By doing so, we will demonstrate to the world the G7′s strong determination to uphold the international order based on the rule of law,” Mr. Hayashi added.
The meeting, the most important G7 event ahead of a leaders’ summit next month, came as Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted China’s newly appointed Defence Minister, Li Shangfu, in Moscow.
Washington has accused China of considering the idea of providing arms to support Russia’s war in Ukraine, with recently leaked classified documents suggesting Beijing has been waiting for an escalation, such as Ukrainian strikes within Russian territory using NATO-supplied weapons, that could provide a pretext for the move.
Speaking Sunday, Mr. Li said China was “willing to work with Russia to make new contributions to the maintenance of world and regional security and stability.”
Mr. Putin said the two sides were “working actively through our military departments,” regularly exchanging useful information and holding joint exercises.
During a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to Beijing earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated his support for peace talks but did not criticize Russia nor call for the withdrawal of troops from Ukraine, despite intense lobbying from Mr. Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Chinese state media have consistently blamed the United States and NATO for “fanning the flames” of the conflict.
In the weeks since, Beijing’s propaganda apparatus has played up comments made by Mr. Macron to journalists on the flight home, in which he seemed to suggest Europe would not support Taiwan in the event of a similar invasion by China, which recently staged large-scale military drills for a possible invasion of the self-ruled island.
Mr. Macron said Europe should not be “caught up in conflicts which are not ours” and later doubled down on that stand, saying France would not be a “vassal” of the United States. His comments were widely criticized in the West but seized on by China as a sign of disunity within the European Union.
“France’s attitude is the epitome of European countries’ pursuit of dignity and self-interest. In fact, no country really wants to be a vassal of U.S. hegemony,” said Hu Xijin, a former editor of the state-run Global Times newspaper. “China needs to work hard to prevent Europe from becoming like Japan and Australia, while pushing Japan and Australia as much as possible to act like France and Europe.”
On Sunday, G7 foreign ministers, including France’s Catherine Colonna and representatives of the EU, reaffirmed “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” and vowed to defy any attempts by China to change the “status quo by force,” according to a readout from the Japanese Foreign Affairs Ministry.
The following day, ministers discussed Japan’s plans to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific, which partly includes pushing back against territorial claims by Beijing in the East and South China seas. Tokyo recently approved a historic military buildup amid heightening tensions in Asia.
On Ukraine, ministers emphasized the need to “maintain unity among the G7 and other like-minded countries” while continuing severe sanctions against Russia and support for Kyiv. Mr. Hayashi said the G7 would also “strengthen co-operation with countries, including the so-called ‘Global South.’ ”
As the only Asian member of the G7, Japan has made it a priority to increase communication between the bloc and other countries in the region, particularly India, which currently holds the G20 presidency. Like Beijing, New Delhi has not criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and continues to buy oil and gas from Moscow.
“After one year of the war in Ukraine, the G7 has found we have more friends than we thought, but our voice is not global,” said Ken Jimbo, a security expert at Tokyo’s Keio University. “There should be deeper collaboration between the G7 and the G20.”
The split in the international community on Ukraine was on display last week when Brazilian President Lula da Silva visited Beijing. He echoed China’s line in blaming the U.S. for prolonging the conflict by providing weapons to Kyiv, which he appeared to blame for causing the invasion, saying the war was “made by two countries.”
He praised Beijing for playing “a very important role” in trying to end the conflict and called for a coalition of non-aligned countries to push for peace.