• Sunday, February 25, 2024
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G7 issues strongest condemnation of China as it intensifies response to Beijing

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Concerns raised over ‘economic coercion’ and militarisation of South China Sea

The G7 has issued its strongest condemnation of China as the world’s most advanced economies step up their response to what they say are rising military and economic security threats posed by Beijing.

Criticising China over everything from its militarisation of the South China Sea to its use of “economic coercion”, the G7 in a joint communiqué urged Beijing to push Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine.

The G7 members said they were “seriously concerned” about the situation in the East and South China Seas, and “strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion”. They also called for a “peaceful solution” to the increasing tension across the Taiwan Strait.

The countries stressed they “were prepared to build constructive and stable relations” with Beijing but recognised the importance of “engaging candidly . . . and expressing our concerns directly to China”.

The statement marks the strongest criticism of Beijing by the G7. At the three-day summit in Hiroshima, the US and its democratic allies have sought to project a unified front in the face of global division caused by the war in Ukraine, the US-China dispute, climate change and the expansion of artificial intelligence.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine’s president, landed in Hiroshima on Saturday afternoon, ahead of his participation in Sunday’s sessions devoted to the war in Ukraine.

Zelenskyy, whose attendance was kept secret until yesterday, wrote on arrival on Twitter: “Japan. G7. Important meetings with partners and friends of Ukraine. Security and enhanced co-operation for our victory. Peace will become closer today.”

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A Ukrainian official travelling with Zelenskyy told the Financial Times that the main Ukrainian goals at the summit were to gain support for Kyiv’s peace plan; secure greater military aid and co-operation, particularly air defences and fighter jets, with an emphasis on long-term guarantees; convince allies to ratchet up sanctions on Russia; and discuss further measures to hold Moscow accountable for its invasion.

Downing Street said it would start training Ukrainian pilots “this summer” after the US gave the green light for the transfer of jets from countries including the Netherlands to the administration in Kyiv.

Britain has pledged to deliver a “basic programme” jet pilot training for Ukrainians although they will then need to take further advanced lessons.

“Obviously there will need to be further training with regards to F16s, specifically, which the UK doesn’t have as a capability,” said a Number 10 spokesperson on Saturday.

The increasingly tough stance on Beijing comes after two years of the US and Japan working with the other G7 countries to strike a harsher tone against China’s military activity around Taiwan and its use of economic pressure.

The leaders of Japan, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, US and UK also warned of “heightened uncertainty about the global economic outlook”, pledging to remain vigilant and flexible in their macroeconomic policy as global inflationary pressure continues.

On economic policy towards Beijing, the G7 said its approach was “not designed to harm China” nor “to thwart China’s economic progress and development”. Member nations said the group was not interested in decoupling from China and was simply engaging in “de-risking”.

But they said they would tackle “challenges posed by China’s non-market policies and practices, which distort the global economy” and “foster resilience to economic coercion”.

In a separate statement, the G7 said the world had witnessed “a disturbing rise in incidents of economic coercion”. It said they would create a mechanism to “increase our collective assessment, preparedness, deterrence and response to economic coercion” and would step up co-ordination on detecting and responding to economic coercion.

China’s foreign ministry on Friday said a “de-risking” strategy by G7 was unnecessary: “China brings to the world opportunities, stability and assurance, not challenges, turmoil and risks.”

On climate policy the leaders agreed that, given the exceptional impacts of Russia’s war against Ukraine, “publicly supported investment in the gas sector can be appropriate as a temporary response”, in a victory for Germany.

Berlin had pushed for such an endorsement despite opposition from countries including the UK and France, which said it undermined the G7’s aim to shift away from fossil fuels.

Regarding the rapidly developing artificial intelligence industry, the leaders agreed to “commit to further advancing multi-stakeholder approaches to the development of standards for AI” and to develop international standards for the sector.

The G7 also agreed to set up a “Hiroshima AI process” in co-operation with the OECD and the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence, a group of 29 countries focused on the topic, by the end of this year, to discuss governance, intellectual property rights and “responsible” use.

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