G-7 statement on disputed seas angers China

Leaders of the Group of Seven (G-7) advanced economies yesterday said they were concerned by the situation in the East China and South China seas, in a statement that Beijing said it was "extremely dissatisfied" with.

The G-7 leaders had stressed the importance of peaceful management and settlement of disputes, and endorsed the G-7 foreign ministers' statement on maritime security issued last month.

The foreign ministers had urged "all states to refrain from such actions as land reclamations" and "building of outposts... for military purposes".

The statement had angered China and led to Beijing summoning top envoys from the G-7 nations.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said yesterday: "This G-7 summit organised by Japan's hyping up of the South China Sea issue and exaggeration of tensions is not beneficial to stability in the South China Sea."

Yesterday's communique, issued at the end of the two-day G-7 summit, did not mention China by name.

But Beijing lays claim to almost all of the South China Sea, and is now embroiled in a territorial dispute with Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines over conflicting claims to territory in the waterway. Japan and China are involved in a separate dispute in the East China Sea.

The G-7 foreign ministers had urged "all states to refrain from such actions as land reclamations" and "building of outposts... for military purposes".

The statement had angered China and led to Beijing summoning top envoys from the G-7 nations.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said yesterday: "This G-7 summit organised by Japan's hyping up of the South China Sea issue and exaggeration of tensions is not beneficial to stability in the South China Sea."

Washington is not a claimant in any of the disputes but has accused Beijing of militarising the contested waters of the South China Sea.

The G-7 grouping comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. The EU is also represented in the club.

The leaders yesterday reiterated their commitment to maintaining a rules-based maritime order, according to international law, and urged the settlement of disputes by peaceful means, including judicial procedures such as arbitration.

A ruling is expected soon on China's claims to the South China Sea in a case that the Philippines had brought to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. Beijing has lashed out at the tribunal for "abuse of power", and said it will ignore its decision.

The G-7 leaders also condemned "in the strongest terms" North Korea's fourth nuclear test in January and its subsequent launches using ballistic missile technology. These acts pose a grave threat to regional and international peace and security, they said, adding that they also deplored human rights violations in North Korea.

On terrorism, the G-7 leaders said they will continue to work together to prevent the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and terrorism-related materials and equipment, as well as to counter terrorism financing.

And, on the migrant crisis gripping Europe, the G-7 "encourages the temporary admission of refugees and establishment of resettlement schemes, to alleviate pressure on countries hosting the largest numbers of refugees".

Walter Sim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2016, with the headline 'G-7 statement on disputed seas angers China'. Print Edition | Subscribe