• Sun. May 21st, 2023

G7 warns on China ‘militarisation’, Zelensky makes surprise appearance in Japan

ByGurinderbir Singh

May 21, 2023

G7 leaders on Saturday warned China over its “militarisation activities” in the Asia-Pacific region but said the bloc also wanted “constructive and stable relations” with Beijing.

In a final communique issued at a summit in Hiroshima, the nations laid out a raft of concerns about China’s economic and military activities.

But they also sought to keep the door open to co-operation and avoid further inflaming tensions between the world’s second largest economy and the grouping of major Western powers plus Japan.

“We stand prepared to build constructive and stable relations with China, recognising the importance of engaging candidly with and expressing our concerns directly to China,” the group said.

“Our policy approaches are not designed to harm China nor do we seek to thwart China’s economic progress and development,” the statement continued, adding that the G7 countries are not “decoupling or turning inwards”.

Still, the language made clear the bloc’s wide-ranging concerns about Beijing’s willingness to deploy trade measures in diplomatic disputes and G7 determination to untangle sensitive supply chains for “critical goods” like minerals, semiconductors and batteries from Chinese influence.

“Economic resilience requires de-risking and diversifying,” the communique said, pledging to “reduce excessive dependencies in our critical supply chains”.

“What we have done over 20 years with China, encouraging development, was right, but maybe we should have been more careful on critical material, supply chains and those elements,” an EU official said.

The bloc warned against China’s “militarisation” in the South China Sea and repeated that “peace and stability” in the Taiwan Strait is “indispensable” to global security.

And it urged China to use its influence with Russia “to stop its military aggression, and immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw its troops from Ukraine”.

Zelensky arrives at G7

President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Hiroshima for talks with the G7 Saturday, after winning long-sought access to advanced US fighter jets to bolster Ukraine’s defence.

Mr Zelensky’s surprise summit appearance — he had previously been expected to appear by video call — came after he welcomed a “historic” White House decision to allow Ukraine to obtain F-16 jets.

The group of seven rich democracies were meeting in Japan to discuss issues including the need for “constructive and stable” relations with China, which the bloc accused of “economic coercion”.

But it was Mr Zelensky’s arrival, and debate about the future of Russia’s 15-month-old invasion of Ukraine, that dominated the summit.

After a long winter of fighting that saw Russian gains in the eastern city of Bakhmut, Ukraine’s forces are poised to launch a counteroffensive but remain highly dependent on Western weaponry.

On landing, Mr Zelensky said the summit would bring “increased co-operation for our victory” and he declared that “today, peace will be closer”.

Military experts say the aircraft would be a significant upgrade from Ukraine’s ageing Soviet-era fleet, offering greater ability to eventually strike targets in the air or on the ground.

They are also a potent symbol of Western support for Ukraine, forestalling any talk of waning interest as the conflict grinds on.

Until now, US President Joe Biden had effectively vetoed the transfer of US-made F-16s, with officials citing long pilot training times and the risk of escalating the conflict with Russia.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan insisted there had been no about-turn in US policy, and the decision was based on the “exigencies of the conflict”.

“We’ve reached a moment where it’s time to look down the road and to say, ‘What is Ukraine going to need … to be able to deter and defend against Russian aggression?’ F-16s, fourth-generation fighter aircraft, are part of that mix,” he said, adding that Ukraine had committed to not using US military equipment to hit targets inside Russia.

“We are going to do everything we can to support Ukraine in its defence of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and we are also going to proceed in a way that avoids World War III,” he added.

With the US veto lifted, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak quickly announced that Britain would “work together with the USA and the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark to get Ukraine the combat air capability it needs”.

‘Bolster support’

It is Zelensky’s first trip to the Asia-Pacific since the war began — and offers a chance to confer with allies, but also to woo key unaligned powers also joining the summit, including India and Brazil.

“There is an opportunity for Zelensky to engage with these non-Western actors, to try to bolster support, or at least weaken what may be seen as ambivalence towards the conflict,” Ian Lesser, vice president of the German Marshall Fund think-tank, told AFP.

“And they do matter. They matter especially in terms of sanctions, of course,” he added.

The Ukrainian leader, wearing his trademark olive-green hoodie, touched down at Hiroshima airport, arriving on a French state plane and greeted on the tarmac with a red carpet and a phalanx of officials.

His departure from Ukraine and flight from Poland was a closely guarded secret until he appeared in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah, where he met leaders from the Arab League.

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