MUNICH – The leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized countries released a statement Monday expressing “strong opposition” to massive land reclamation in disputed waters in the South China Sea and called for a thorough implementation of the cease-fire in Ukraine.
The G-7 leaders said they are concerned by the situation in the East and South China seas, although they stopped short of singling out China in referring to the reclamation work.
The leaders confirmed their commitment to adopting an agreement at the COP21 conference on climate change in December, with the goal of cutting greenhouse emissions by 2050 at the upper end of a U.N. panel-proposed range of 40 to 70 percent from 2010 levels.
The leaders from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States released the statement after wrapping up a two-day summit in Schloss Elmau in Bavaria, southern Germany.
On Ukraine, the leaders said the duration of economic sanctions currently imposed on Russia should be linked to Moscow’s complete implementation of the Minsk agreement on a cease-fire between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia rebels.
The G-7 leaders condemned North Korea for its continued development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, violations of human rights and abductions of people from other countries.
The leaders also voiced regret over the failure by the review conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to adopt a consensus document at the latest round of talks, stressing the forum remains the cornerstone of the NPT regime.
Citing Beijing’s actions in the East and South China Seas, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday the G-7 leaders “must not leave unilateral attempts to change the status quo untouched,” according to Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko.
Japan is embroiled in a territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
The leaders affirmed that Beijing should clarify the basis of its territorial claims based on international law, not the threat or use of force and coercion, Seko said.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, an international shipping route and an area believed to have rich energy reserves and fishing grounds. Parts of the contested waters are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
On the recent upsurge in violence between Russian-backed separatists and government forces in eastern Ukraine, the G-7 leaders agreed to demand that “all parties involved fully implement the Minsk agreement,” according to Seko.
They also agreed that the duration of sanctions imposed on Moscow “should be linked to Russia’s full implementation of the Minsk accord,” he said.
Abe was quoted by Seko as saying that while Japan “firmly responds to Russia’s attempts to change the status quo by force, it is important to continue dialogue with Russia on regional issues,” alluding to the G-7’s possible cooperation with Moscow in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program and the conflict in Syria.
Russia was invited to join the G-7 in 1998 and remained a member of what was then called the Group of Eight nations until 2014, when the G-7 suspended Moscow’s participation in retaliation for its annexation of Crimea in southern Ukraine in March that year.
During talks on economic issues earlier Sunday, the G-7 leaders agreed to ensure close coordination in dealing with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a China-led regional investment bank to be launched by the end of this year, according to Seko.
Abe called for transparency in the management and lending standards of the AIIB, saying that “infrastructure investment must be made under proper governance, with care for the environment and society and the debt sustainability of aid recipient countries must be closely watched.”
The G-7 members are split in their response to the AIIB. While Britain, France, Germany and Italy have signed up for Beijing’s initiative, Canada, Japan and the United States have stayed out due to concerns over the body’s governance and debt sustainability.
The leaders agreed to promote anti-corruption measures in emerging and developing countries because corruption has become an impediment to economic growth in such countries.
“Without anti-corruption measures, developing countries would not develop infrastructure in a sound way,” Abe was quoted as saying.
Abe referred to Japan’s $110 billion, five-year “high quality” infrastructure investment initiative for Asia in partnership with the Manila-based Asian Development Bank, a project some see as a bid to counter the AIIB, which will be initially capitalized at $100 billion.
“Through enhancement of the ADB’s ability, Japan will create a system to respond to enormous infrastructure needs in Asia,” Abe said. “When building infrastructure, you must take into account the economic welfare of local people, debt sustainability and the impact on human rights, society and the environment.”
When the leaders touched on trade issues, Abe expressed resolve to speed up negotiations for the proposed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, and to conclude talks for a free trade agreement between Japan and the European Union by the end of the year.
Among the G-7 countries, Canada, Japan and the United States are involved in the TPP negotiations.