• Kyodo


Leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations on Sunday called for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and urged China to respect human rights in the Xinjiang region and freedom in Hong Kong, a pronouncement that is certain to anger China.

In a communique issued after their three-day summit in Cornwall, southwestern England, the leaders expressed support for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics starting next month in a boost to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who faces a public skeptical about Japan’s hosting of the events amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We underscore the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues,” the communique said, making it the first time that the G7 has referred to the Taiwan situation in a leaders’ statement.

China regards the self-ruled, democratic island as a renegade province to be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary. Concerns have grown that Beijing has been increasing its military pressure on Taipei.

In the first in-person summit in two years, the G7 leaders underlined a commitment to extending more than 1 billion additional vaccine doses to struggling countries in hopes of ending the global COVID-19 crisis by 2022.

“What we as the G7 need to do is demonstrate the benefits of democracy and freedom and human rights to the rest of the world. And we can partly achieve that by the greatest feat in medical history, vaccinating the world,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who presided over the summit.

In a move to counter Beijing’s growing clout, the leaders also agreed to launch a new infrastructure project for developing countries — which a senior U.S. official says is worth hundreds of billions of dollars — as an alternative to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative.

Critics say the Chinese initiative lacks transparency, has poor environmental and labor standards, and has a record of saddling developing countries with debt.

Vowing to make the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games a success, Suga said after the summit that he won “strong support” from all his G7 peers for holding a “safe and secure” games.

According to the communique, the leaders underscored support for the holding of the global sporting events “in a safe and secure manner as a symbol of global unity in overcoming COVID-19.”

Amid growing concerns over human rights abuses of the Muslim Uyghur minority and the situation in Hong Kong, the leaders urged China to “respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially in relation to Xinjiang and those rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.”

“China has to start to act more responsibly in terms of international norms on human rights and transparency,” U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters.

The G7 remains “seriously concerned” about the situation in the East and South China seas, the statement said, in a veiled criticism of China’s attempts to undermine Japan’s control of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and Beijing’s militarization of outposts in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

China has overlapping claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which over one-third of global trade passes.

Referring to the Feb. 1 military coup in Myanmar, the G7 leaders said, “We condemn in the strongest terms the military coup in Myanmar, and the violence committed by Myanmar’s security forces, and we call for the immediate release of those detained arbitrarily.”

On the economic front, the leaders endorsed a minimum corporate tax rate of at least 15%, a move intended to keep multinationals from shifting profits to beneficial tax jurisdictions.

As for climate change, the leaders committed to almost halving their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 relative to 2010.

They set out actions toward slashing carbon emissions, such as ending new direct government support for “unabated” coal power generation — the use of the fossil fuel without any technologies to substantially reduce its emissions — overseas by the end of 2021.

With Biden working to reinstate American leadership on the global stage and emphasizing multilateralism, there seems have been more of a mood of unity among the leaders compared with the gatherings held during his predecessor Donald Trump’s presidency, according to delegates.

“America is back at the table,” Biden said. “America is back in the business of leading the world alongside nations who share our most deeply held values.”

Trump had stood apart on trade and other issues based on his “America First” mantra. Dismissing alliances and multilateralism, Trump called the more than four-decade-old G7 framework “outdated.”

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