Leaders representing G7 nations on Thursday opened their 42nd summit in Japan with a particular focus on the world economy and China’s growing influence in regards to territorial disputes with Japan and other South Asian states.
The G7 leaders agreed on sending a strong message regarding the maritime claims in the Western Pacific, where China and several other South Asian nations are engaged in disputes.
China reacted strongly to the announcement of the G7 leaders with its Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying saying that the South China Sea issue had ‘nothing to do’ with the G7 or any of its members.
"China is resolutely opposed to individual countries hyping up the South China Sea for personal gain," she said.
"Japanese Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe led the discussion on the current situation in the South China Sea and East China Sea. Other G7 leaders said it is necessary for G7 to issue a clear signal." Japan's Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko told reporters after a session on foreign policy affairs.
Addressing a news conference late on Wednesday, Abe said Japan welcomed China's peaceful rise while repeating Tokyo's opposition to acts that try to change the status quo by force and urging respect for the rule of law - principles are expected to be mentioned in a statement after the summit.
On Wednesday, US President Barack Obama called upon China to resolve maritime disputes amicably and he reiterated that the US was only concerned about freedom of navigation and overflight in the region.
Obama on Thursday identified what he called risks from North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, saying the isolated state was ‘hell bent’ on acquiring atomic weapons.
However, he expressed satisfaction on what he termed as improved responses from countries in the region like China that could reduce the risk of North Korea selling weapons or nuclear material.
"It's something that we've put at the centre of discussions and negotiations with China," the US President told reporters.