Foreign ministry spokesman stated today that China is ‘strongly dissatisfied’ with a Group of Seven (G7) statement calling for restraint in disputed waters as worries grow in Asia over Beijing’s territorial and military ambitions. “China is strongly dissatisfied with relevant moves taken by G7,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement.
“We urge G7 members to abide by their promise of not taking sides on territorial disputes, respect the efforts by regional countries, stop all irresponsible words and actions, and make constructive contribution to regional peace and stability,” Lu Kang added.
After a 2-day G7 meeting, foreign ministers from leading economies issued a joint statement expressing concern over simmering tensions in Asian waters, where China was seen to be more aggressively asserting its claims in recent years.
“We are concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas, and emphasize the fundamental importance of peaceful management and settlement of disputes,” the communique said at the end of the meeting in Hiroshima.
“We express our strong opposition to any intimidating, coercive or provocative unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions, and urge all states to refrain from such actions as land reclamation, including large-scale ones, building out outposts, as well as their use for military purposes and to act in accordance with international law including the principles of freedoms of navigation and overflight,” they said.
While the G7 statement did not explicitly name China, it contained a clear message critical of China’s hegemonial ambitions in the South China seas. The South China Seas are believed to have vast deposits of oil and gas and is also a major artery for transportation and trade worth billions of dollars.
China claims almost the entire waters, more than 80% of the South China seas and is building islands on reefs, some with airstrips for landing, to assert its sovereignty. Beijing indicated that it felt targeted by the comments.
Lu Kang further said, “Given the sluggish global economic recovery at the moment, G7 should have focused on global economic governance and cooperation instead of hyping up maritime issues and fuelling tensions in the region.”
China has every right to build on the Spratly Islands and there are no problems with freedom of navigation and overflight for the East and South China Seas, the foreign ministry said.
China is committed to resolving disputes through talks with countries directly involved via international law and on the basis of respecting historical facts, to maintain peace and stability while safeguarding its sovereignty, it said.
It repeated that China will neither accept nor participate in any arbitration ‘illegally forced upon it’, a reference to a case lodged by the Philippines against China.
As a displeasing response, the official statement from Chinese foreign ministry 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.”
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to parts of the waters.
Japan, meanwhile, has its own dispute with China in the East China Sea over uninhabited islands that it governs but that are also claimed by Beijing.