Japan pushes back against talk of G-7 that includes South Korea

Japan reportedly wants to maintain its status as the only Asian country in the group. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Japan said it opposed changes to the Group of Seven nations as it pushed back against a reform plan by US President Donald Trump that would have rival South Korea join in an expanded meeting this year.

Tokyo has told the US it stands against the participation of South Korea on the grounds of differences in policy on China and North Korea, Kyodo News reported this weekend, citing more than one source related to Japanese and US diplomacy. Japan also wants to maintain its status as the only Asian country in the group, the news agency added.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Monday (June 29) it was important to maintain the framework of the G-7 as it is. He added that it was up to the US, this year's host, to decide on arrangements for the next meeting. The G-7 frequently invites other nations to take part as guests.

Japan and South Korea have seen relations deteriorate to their worst levels in years due to renewed disputes arising from Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula. The tensions have clouded trade links and joint security for the two US allies, who both face a threat from North Korea and live in the shadow of China's growing military.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday that it would refrain from commenting on the Kyodo report.

Trump said in May he was considering inviting Russia, South Korea, Australia and India to an extended G-7 leaders meeting, alongside the seven member countries, saying the existing set-up was outdated.

Trump said the meeting could be held the weekend before or the weekend after the United Nations General Assembly, which is scheduled to open - potentially virtually, not in person - on Sept 15 and run through Sept 30.

"Maybe I'll do it after the election," Trump said in late May. "I think a good time would be before the election."

The US presidential election is Nov 3.

A previous plan for an in-person meeting in June was scrapped amid coronavirus concerns. The US already has the most confirmed infections and Covid-19 deaths of any nation and was hit by a renewed surge of cases in recent days.

The current G-7 member countries are the US, Japan, Germany, Canada, Britain, France and Italy. Several countries are opposed to the idea of including Russia, which was suspended from what was then the Group of Eight major economies in 2014 after its annexation of Crimea. South Korea is a member of the Group of 20.

Join ST's Telegram channel here and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.