G7 nations need to expand international cooperation to counter China

It is significant that Japan, the United States and European countries took the initiative in confirming that they would strengthen international cooperation at a time when China is threatening the existing order economically and militarily.

A meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven industrialized nations was held in Britain. It has been two years since the last in-person meeting.

It was difficult for the G7 nations to deal with a variety of global issues in concert with the United States under the administration of former President Donald Trump, who pursued an “America First” policy. It is welcoming that the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden was launched and an international cooperation framework based on freedom and democracy has been resumed.

At the meeting, foreign ministers expressed concerns from various angles about China, whose hegemonic behavior has been conspicuous. Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters, “We agreed to urge China to fulfill its responsibilities commensurate with its economic scale and role.”

In the joint statement, the G7 nations said they were “deeply concerned” about such issues as the suppression of human rights in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong and coercive maritime activities in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.

Also referring to the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, they emphasized in the joint statement that they intend to “encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.” It is unusual for the G7 to refer to the Taiwan issue in a joint statement. China must take this seriously.

There had been less wariness of China among European countries, especially Italy and Germany, which have placed importance on their economic ties with China. However, they have recently changed their attitude and have been getting involved in maintaining stability in the Indo-Pacific region. It is timely that G7 nations have taken concerted action to strengthen their pressure on China.

Australia, India, South Korea, South Africa and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations were invited as guests to discuss the importance of the “free and open Indo-Pacific” vision.

China is using its economic power to expand its influence in Southeast Asia and Africa. G7 nations should further strengthen ties with the democracies in the regions and with ASEAN.

It is vital for Japan not only to create a framework for international cooperation but also to directly approach China.

On the issue of Uighur human rights, Japan should ask China to accept an international investigation team. As for the situation in Myanmar, Japan also needs to strongly urge the Myanmar military to exercise restraint and ask China and Russia not to support the junta.

After visiting Slovenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Motegi was scheduled to attend a regional cooperation conference in Poland. It is important to deepen friendly relations with European countries and enhance Japan’s diplomatic power.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on May 7, 2021.