LUBECK, Germany - Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven advanced nations have criticised China's reclamation work in the South China Sea and expressed concern about Beijing's attempts to unilaterally "change the status quo" in the region.
The first declaration on maritime security was issued by the G-7 ministers Wednesday after their meeting in Lubeck.
In a separate joint communique, the ministers demanded that Russia ensure the full implementation of a ceasefire agreement in eastern Ukraine, and said they "strongly condemn" the attacks and unlawful killings perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the extremist militant group whose victims have included murdered Japanese hostages.
In the maritime security declaration, the foreign ministers said they "continue to observe the situation in the East and South China Seas and are concerned by any unilateral actions, such as large scale land reclamation, which change the status quo and increase tensions." The declaration went on to say, "We strongly oppose any attempt to assert territorial or maritime claims through the use of intimidation, coercion or force."
In recent years, China has repeatedly violated Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture in the East China Sea, and in late 2013 it unilaterally declared an "air defence identification zone" that overlapped these islands. In the South China Sea, through which major sea-lanes for Japan pass, Beijing has conducted reclamation work on reefs and pushed ahead with the construction of facilities that appear to be intended for military use.
The foreign ministers' declaration did not single out China by name, but the use of the expression "East and South China Seas" clarified that this message was aimed at such menacing actions by China. The G-7 appears united in aiming to keep China in check.
Maritime security is expected to be on the discussion agenda at the summit meeting of G-7 leaders scheduled to be held in Elmau, Germany, in June.
According to Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, attendees at Wednesday's meeting also were united in recognising that "governance will be important" for the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and confirmed they would work closely together on this issue.
The communique reiterated "condemnation of Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea," and the ministers "expect" Russia to use its "considerable influence" to ensure the implementation of the Minsk Agreement regarding a ceasefire in Ukraine. The communique emphasised that sanctions imposed on Russia would not be eased until it completely implements the agreement.
Regarding ISIL, the ministers said the G-7 will "actively contribute" to the stabilization of the region where the militant group is present.
At the meeting, the ministers reaffirmed support for the three pillars of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty: reducing nuclear weapons for military use, preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Excerpts of the G-7 foreign ministers' joint communique
"Guided by our shared values and principles, including democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, we are determined to employ coordinated efforts … to tackle challenges including terrorism, social instability as well as new types of security threats."
"The G7 underlines the close linkage between full implementation of the Minsk Agreements [on a ceasefire in Ukraine] and international sanctions."
"We strongly condemn the attacks, atrocities, unlawful killings and abuses of human rights perpetrated by ISIL … as well as … its destruction of cultural and religious heritage."
"We welcome the political understanding on key parameters" on an international agreement regarding Iran's nuclear programme. "We support the continuation of the efforts."
"We strongly condemn North Korea's continued development of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs … We urge the DPRK to take immediate steps to address these [human rights] violations, including on the abductions issue."