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G-7 ups pressure on China over human rights abuses, economic coercion

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, attends a press conference with India's Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar following a bilateral meeting in London on May 3, 2021. (Ben Stansall/Pool Photo via AP)

LONDON (Kyodo) -- The Group of Seven countries on Wednesday stepped up pressure on China in a communique issued after their three-day foreign ministerial talks in London, touching on their concerns over Beijing's human rights abuses and coercive economic policies, while signaling support for Taiwan.

    Calling China a "major power and economy with advanced technological capability," the G-7 foreign ministers said they urge Beijing to "respect human rights and fundamental freedoms" and to "assume and fulfil obligations and responsibilities commensurate with its global economic role."

    "We will work collectively to foster global economic resilience in the face of arbitrary, coercive economic policies and practices," said the ministers from the countries including the United States, Japan and Britain in the communique.

    China's alleged human rights violations against the Muslim Uyghur minority in the Xinjiang autonomous region, including reports of forced labor and forced sterilization, were mentioned as an issue warranting deep concern among the participants.

    "We agree the importance of tackling instances of forced labor through our own available domestic means, including through raising awareness and providing advice and support for our business communities," the communique said.

    It also expressed concerns over China's move to erode democratic elements of the electoral system in Hong Kong, as well as the situation in the East and South China seas where Beijing has been stepping up territorial claims including over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands.

    As China increases its military pressure on Taiwan, the G-7 ministers expressed support for the island's "meaningful" participation in World Health Organization forums and the meeting of the WHO's decision-making body, particularly when the world is expanding efforts to rein in the coronavirus pandemic.

    China opposes Taiwan's participation in international forums as Beijing regards the self-ruled, democratic island as a renegade province to be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.

    The communique also called on North Korea to refrain from provocative actions and to engage in a diplomatic process toward the goal of ridding the country of its nuclear weapons.

    Voicing regret that North Korea has not taken "concrete, verified" actions toward denuclearization, the G-7 ministers said it is "critical" that sanctions which target Pyongyang remain in place while its nuclear and ballistic missile programs exist.

    To address global challenges such as the pandemic, the G-7 ministers said in a separate statement that they commit to working with industry to "facilitate expanded manufacturing at scale of affordable COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics."

    Two members of India's delegation to the London gathering have tested positive for COVID-19, a source close to Japan-Britain relations said early Wednesday, prompting Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar to attend the day's session in virtual mode.

    India is not a G-7 member but is participating in part of the talks as a guest, together with Australia, South Korea, South Africa and Brunei, this year's chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

    The seven leading democracies also focused on other regional issues such as the military coup and the crackdowns on peaceful protestors in Myanmar, Iran's nuclear and missile development and Russia's attempts to undermine Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

    On Myanmar, the G-7 ministers said they "condemn in the strongest terms" the coup and demanded the Southeast Asian country's military and police to cease the violence and respect international human rights law.

    The London meeting lays the groundwork for a G-7 summit slated for June 11-13 in Cornwall, southwestern England, in what will be the first such event since U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January.

    In a teleconference in February, the G-7 leaders vowed to make 2021 a turning point for promoting multilateralism, in contrast to Biden's predecessor Donald Trump's "America First" approach.

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