A fuming China on Tuesday said developed countries led by the US are taking sides on the South China Sea dispute after foreign ministers of G7 issued a statement opposing any “intimidating and coercive” actions in the region.
Monday’s statement by the foreign ministers of the grouping of developed nations did not name any country involved in the maritime dispute but gave enough indications that it was referring to China.
Expectedly, the statement caught Beijing’s attention. What would have added to the fire was that it was issued in Japan, with which China has tense relations steeped in history of colonisation and violence.
“We urge the G7 member states to honour their commitment of not taking sides on issues involving territorial disputes,” foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said told a regular news conference on Tuesday.
The G7, Lu said in his terse reaction, should focus on the recovery of the global economy, which remains weak.
China is locked in disputes with several countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and Japan over the ownership of islands and reefs in a maritime region said to be floating on rich oil and gas reserves.
The statement issued by the foreign ministers of the US, Britain, Italy, Germany, Canada, France and Japan in Hiroshima expressed their “strong opposition to any intimidating, coercive or provocative unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions”.
They also reiterated their “commitment to the freedoms of navigation and overflight”.
Lu said China’s stance on the East and South China Seas is “consistent and clear”. It is within “China’s sovereignty to build structures on some of its Nansha islands and reefs and that there is no problem with freedom of navigation and overflight in the East and South China Seas”, he added.
“We urge the G7 member states to fully respect the efforts made by countries in the region, stop making irresponsible remarks and all irresponsible actions, and truly play a constructive role for regional peace and stability,” Lu said.
The G7 statement indicated the grouping is particularly worried about Beijing’s ongoing spat with Manila, which has appealed to the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague to settle the row.
Last week, foreign minister Wang Yi told his visiting British counterpart, Philip Hammond, that China hopes “Britain will adopt an objective and fair stand on the issue and not take sides” on the South China Sea dispute.