By Simone McCarthy and Alex Stambaugh, CNN
April 18, 2023
G7 foreign ministers meet in central Japan's Karuizawa on April 18, 2023.
CNN — The Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies stressed their solidarity against Russia’s assault on Ukraine, and called on China to “abstain from threats,” in a communique Tuesday following talks in Japan.
The bloc’s top diplomats promised “severe consequences” for any use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons by Russia in the on-going conflict in Ukraine, and pledged that those supporting the Kremlin’s war effort there would face “severe costs.” In particular, they pointed to Russia’s threat to deploy nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus.
The ministers also called on China to “abstain from threats, coercion, intimidation, or the use of force” and raised “serious concerns” about the situation in the East and South China Seas – opposing “militarization” of the South China Sea, while presenting a unified front on Taiwan.
“There is no change in the basic positions of the G7 members on Taiwan, including stated one China policies,” their communique said, which also “reaffirmed” the importance of “peace and stability” across the Taiwan Strait as an “indispensable element in security and prosperity in the international community.”
That statement, which goes further than typical language in recent communiques, comes after French President Emmanuel Macron sparked controversy among western allies earlier this month for telling reporters Europe must not become “just America’s followers,” including over the issue of Taiwan.
The statement appeared to soften Europe’s reaction to a potential conflict involving a Chinese invasion of the self-governing island democracy, which China’s Communist Party claims as its own despite never having controlled.
Macron has since sought to downplay his comments, made during his recent state visit to China, saying on Wednesday that France was “for the status quo in Taiwan” and that his country’s position “has not changed.”
Following his departure, China held three days of military drills in the air and sea around the island, in retaliation for a visit between US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen – a meeting Beijing claims is in violation of its sovereignty.
The G7 foreign ministers said, however, that they “recognized the importance of engaging candidly with and expressing our concerns directly to China” and working together with Beijing on global challenges, according to the statement.
Wen-Ti Sung, a political scientist at the Australian National University’s Taiwan Studies Program, said that as far as Taiwan is concerned, the communique appeared to see the G7 “balancing two competing priorities.”
They “underscore the interdependence between peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait and that of the broader international community,” but also “reassure” Beijing they do not support Taiwan independence, he said. He pointed to the language referring to “one China policies” or agreements by which governments have established diplomatic relations with Beijing and not Taipei.
This year’s G7 meetings are hosted by the bloc’s only Asian member. The communique was released as the foreign ministers wrapped up three days of talks in the central Japanese town of Karuizawa in Nagano prefecture.
Next month leaders from the member countries, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as representatives from the European Union, will gather for a summit in Hiroshima.
In their communique Tuesday, the bloc’s foreign ministers stressed their interest in working together in the Indo-Pacific – a region now viewed by the US as a key theater for its competition with China.
The statement also touched on a number of global issues, including condemning North Korea’s weapons testing and nuclear programs, as well as the military coup in Myanmar and an deadly April 11 airstrike by the Myanmar military that left civilians, including children dead.
The minister also urged fighting parties in the recent outbreak of violence in Sudan to “end hostilities immediately,” and return to negotiations.