G-7 ministers to call for resolution to territorial disputes

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Tokyo, April 8 (IANS) The Group of Seven foreign ministers, during a meeting in Hiroshima, are to call on countries to resolve territorial disputes peacefully in accordance with international law in what will be seen as a response to China’s aggressive military posture in the South China Sea, a government source said.

In a statement to be issued after the two-day meeting that kicks off on Sunday, the ministers are expected to say that stakeholders in territorial disputes should abide by international court decisions, the source said on Thursday.

Even though the statement is unlikely to name China, it is apparently aimed at Beijing, which has been asserting its power in the region by constructing military runways, advanced radars and deploying surface-to-air missiles in the Spratly Islands and Paracel Islands.

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Referencing a court decision would be timely as the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is expected to issue a ruling over the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China this spring.

Manila filed a lawsuit with the court in 2013 challenging the “nine-dash line”, a vague, unilaterally declared boundary China drew around most of the South China Sea.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has repeatedly said that he would discuss maritime security issues at the G-7 foreign ministers meeting, but has not named China.

For its part, Beijing has expressed concern over Tokyo’s siding with other Southeast Asian nations, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, in the dispute.

China pressed Japan in late February at a vice foreign ministerial gathering in Tokyo not to broach the subject at the G-7 summit, according to diplomatic sources at the time.

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As Japan is the only G-7 member in Asia and given the meetings are taking place in Asia for the first time in eight years, Tokyo hopes to demonstrate its leadership in addressing the issue.

It will seek to convince European leaders to show solidarity with nations opposed to China’s moves at a time when countries in Europe are focused on the Syrian refugee crisis and terrorism perpetrated by extremist groups such as the Islamic State.

Meanwhile, Tokyo is also inviting other Asian countries such as Laos, Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, as well as Papua New Guinea and Chad, which heads the African Union, to attend the G-7 outreach meeting, the government source added.

The meeting will take place during the Ise-shima Summit next month to discuss global development and health.

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