ISE-SHIMA — Group of Seven (G7) leaders sought to send a strong message on maritime claims in the western Pacific, where an increasingly assertive China is locked in territorial disputes with Japan and several Southeast Asian nations.
The agreement prompted a sharp rejoinder from China, which is not in the G-7 club but whose rise as a power has put it at the heart of some discussions at the advanced nations’ summit in Ise-Shima, central Japan.
“Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe led discussion on the current situation in the South China Sea and East China Sea. Other G-7 leaders said it is necessary for G7 to issue a clear signal,” Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko said after a session on foreign policy affairs.
The US is also increasingly concerned about China’s action in the region.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying retorted in Beijing that the South China Sea issue had “nothing to do” with the G-7 or any of its members.
“China is resolutely opposed to individual countries hyping up the South China Sea for personal gain,” she said.
US President Barack Obama called on China on Wednesday to resolve maritime disputes peacefully and he reiterated that the US was simply concerned about freedom of navigation and overflight in the region.
Obama on Thursday pointed to the risks from North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes, saying the isolated state was “hell bent” on getting atomic weapons.
But he said there had been improved responses from countries in the region like China that could reduce the risk of North Korea selling weapons or nuclear material.
“It’s something that we’ve put at the centre of discussions and negotiations with China,” Obama said.
Abe told G-7 counterparts that Pyongyang’s development of nuclear technology and ballistic missiles poses a threat to international peace, including in Europe.
“It is necessary to make North Korea realise that it would not be able have a bright future unless such issues as abduction, nuclear and missile development are resolved,” Abe told the group.
The G-7 groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US.
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The global economy topped the agenda earlier in the day, when G-7 leaders voiced concern about emerging economies and Abe made a pointed comparison to the 2008 global financial crisis.
Not all his G-7 partners appeared to agree.
The G-7 leaders did agree on the need for flexible spending to spur world growth but the timing and amount depended on each country, Seko said, adding that some countries saw no need for such spending. Britain and Germany have been resisting calls for fiscal stimulus.
“G-7 leaders voiced the view that emerging economies are in a severe situation, although there were views that the current economic situation is not a crisis.”
Abe presented data showing global commodities prices fell 55% from June 2014 to January 2016, the same margin as from July 2008 to February 2009 after the Lehman collapse.
Lehman had been Wall Street’s fourth-largest investment bank when it filed for Chapter 11 protection on September 15 2008, making its bankruptcy by far the biggest in US history. Its failure triggered the global financial crisis.
Abe hopes, some political insiders say, to use a G-7 statement on the global economy as cover for a domestic fiscal package including the possible delay of a rise in the nation’s sales tax to 10% from 8% planned for next April.
Obama criticised Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, saying the billionaire had rattled other G-7 leaders and that his statements were aimed at getting headlines, not what was needed to keep America safe and the world on an even keel.
Summit pageantry began when Abe escorted G-7 leaders to the Shinto religion’s holiest site, the Ise Grand Shrine in central Japan, dedicated to sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami, mythical ancestress of the emperor.