TOKYO — Besides Middle East extremism, North Korea’s belligerence, and the Russia-Ukraine quagmire, the Group of Seven (G7) leaders of the world’s wealthiest nations will discuss maritime tensions in Asia Pacific primarily involving China and its neighbors, including the Philippines.
They will seek to “reaffirm the importance of ‘rule of law’,” including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (Unclos), according to Masato Otaka, deputy press secretary of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).
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In spite of the implications of the wording, considering China’s refusal to acknowledge UNCLOS in the overlapping claims over the South China Sea, the Japanese diplomat said the discussion was not meant to antagonize the East Asian giant.
“We do not condemn anyone. This is all about rule of law, including UNCLOS,” he told a group of visiting journalists here on Monday evening.
Leaders of the G7 will gather at Ise-Shima in Mie Prefecture in central Japan on May 26-27to discuss important issues on the global economy, including the prospect of a British exit from the EU, trade, foreign policy, and climate change.
Formed in 1975 and representing the most industrialized democracies, G7 consists of the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and the European Union.
Otaka said maritime disputes in East China Sea and South China Sea would be on the agenda of the meetings under the foreign policy umbrella.
But he stressed this was not a Japan initiative.
“It was not Japan that chose this subject. All the other countries want to talk about it. That’s why we need to discuss it,” Otaka said.
He reiterated Japan’s support to the Philippines’ decision to file a case before a United Nations arbitration court against China, arguing that the disputed islands were well within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone under the UNCLOS.
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The United States has also declared support for the peaceful means used by the Filipinos to challenge China’s nine-dash claim over practically the entire South China Sea.
The Philippines and China are embroiled in an ownership dispute over the Spratly islands, a reputedly resource-rich chain of isles and atolls claimed by four other regional neighbors.
China has stirred outrage over its reported reclamation activities and construction of military installations on disputed islands.
The UN Permanent Court of Arbitration based in the Hague has assumed jurisdiction over the Philippine case and is expected to make a ruling within the year even though China has refused to participate in the proceedings.