LONDON – G7 foreign ministers urged Beijing to refrain from escalating “tensions” in the East and South China Seas, amid concerns over the open conflict with Taiwan.
In a heavily drafted statement issued after two days of face-to-face meetings in London, foreign ministers from the advanced economies group called on China “to participate constructively in the rules-based international system.”
“We stress the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues,” they said. “We reiterate our strong opposition to any unilateral action that may aggravate tensions and undermine regional stability and the rules-based international order, and we express serious concerns about reports of militarization, coercion and destruction. ‘intimidation in the region.’
This is the first time that the EU and some of its most prominent members, including Germany and France, have aligned with the United States on the situation in the Taiwan Strait.
Shortly after US President Joe Biden came to power, the US State Department reaffirmed its “unwavering commitment” to helping Taiwan defend itself against China, which claims Taiwan as part of its own territory. Beijing has carried out regular flights over international waters in the East and South China Seas in recent months.
China’s growing assertion frightens politicians in Western democracies, and the country was the subject of a lengthy G7 session on Tuesday morning, where it became apparent that not all G7 members shared the same points of view. view on the recognition of Taiwan as an independent state.
However, the final communiqué supported Taiwan’s “meaningful participation” in the World Health Organization and the World Health Assembly.
The G7 also urged China to “act responsibly in cyberspace,” including refraining from all theft of intellectual property, ending practices that “undermine” free trade, and ending human rights violations. human rights against both the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region and the Tibetan people.
Beijing has repeatedly dismissed reports of human rights violations in Xinjiang and views the treatment of minorities as an internal issue that should not be discussed with other governments. The United States has declared China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims to be genocide.
G7 ministers said they “strongly” support “independent and unimpeded access” to Xinjiang for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who has so far been barred from investigating in the field. They also stressed the need to fight forced labor – a key accusation against Beijing in Xinjiang – with their own “domestic means”.
The G7 statement also includes harsh words on Hong Kong, accusing Beijing of wanting to “erode the democratic elements of the electoral system” there and urging China to respect Hong Kong’s “high degree of autonomy and rights and freedoms. “.
While the statement speaks harshly about China, there were a few olive branches. G7 ministers stressed the importance of continued cooperation with Beijing on climate change and global health.
The British hosts of the G7 are strongly focused on their country’s post-Brexit “tilt” towards the Indo-Pacific. As part of this diplomatic turn, London invited the foreign ministers of Australia, India, South Korea and South Africa, as well as the president of the Association of Nations of Southeast Asia, which has 10 members, to participate in some sessions as guests.
The statement stressed the importance of maintaining a “free and open” Indo-Pacific, including the “territorial integrity” of countries in the region.
“ Irresponsible ” behavior
Moscow is also the subject of strong criticism in the G7 statement, with ministers noting the “negative model of Russia’s irresponsible and destabilizing behavior”, a reference to a spike in Russian troops at Ukraine’s borders and in the Crimea “Illegally annexed”.
Russia is criticized for “malicious activities” aimed at undermining democracies; the use of disinformation; and “malicious cyber activity”, while there is a new condemnation of the poisoning in Russian territory of dissident Alexei Navalny with a nerve agent.
Yet, according to a diplomat attending the meeting, there was a clear desire from G7 members to improve relations with Moscow. “We reiterate our interest in stable and predictable relations with Russia,” the statement said, while warning that the G7 will continue to strengthen its defenses against Russian threats.
Closer to home, G7 ministers supported the opening of EU accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, and urge Kosovo and Serbia to normalize relations after the declaration of independence of the first. The group also expressed its support for the reform program linked to the EU’s accession negotiations with Montenegro and Serbia. But on Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is a warning: any attempt to undermine their territorial integrity will not be welcome.