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International relations

G-7 prepares to write Taiwan Strait into summit statement

Meeting in UK to also cover China's treatment of Uyghurs

Taiwanese Navy personnel salute on a patrol vessel after maritime exercises.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Discussions are underway on including a reference to the Taiwan Strait in the joint statement to be issued after this month's Group of Seven summit as the U.S. and Japan seek a united front to counter Chinese pressure on the island, Nikkei has learned.

Dealing with China-related issues -- including not only Taiwan, but also Hong Kong and alleged abuses in Xinjiang -- will be high on the agenda at the three-day event in the U.K. starting Friday, the first face-to-face meeting of leaders from the seven major economies since August 2019.

Washington and Tokyo look to persuade other members to follow the communique from May's meeting of G-7 foreign ministers, which said members "underscore the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues."

Doing so would mark the first explicit mention of the strait in a G-7 summit statement. The document is also expected to express "concern" about human rights abuses against China's Uyghur Muslim minority and the crackdown on pro-democracy activism in Hong Kong.

The goal is to affirm attendees' basic stance toward Beijing -- including leaders of countries outside the G-7, such as Australia and South Korea, which have been invited to attend as guest nations -- and ensure seamless cooperation.

Taiwan is expected to be covered at a session devoted to discussing a range of issues surrounding China, including security and economic concerns, the pandemic, and climate change.

U.S. President Joe Biden seeks to cooperate with allies to curb China's maritime incursions and human rights abuses. Joint statements after recent bilateral summits with Japan and South Korea explicitly mentioned the Taiwan Strait, and Washington hopes that having the G-7 follow suit will demonstrate that major economies are aligned on the issue.

Bringing Europe on board would be particularly significant. European countries had generally been more restrained than the U.S. in their criticism of China, prioritizing economic ties with one of the world's largest economies while not seeing it as much of a security threat due to the geographic distance between them.

But wariness toward Beijing is growing in the region, owing not only to the problems in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, but also to concerns about China's early handling of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Countries including the U.K. and Germany are sending warships to East Asia this year and are set to conduct joint exercises with Japan's Self-Defense Forces, aiming to discourage any provocative moves by Beijing.

The Taiwan situation has become an economic security concern as well, given the island's status as the world's largest producer of semiconductors -- a critical strategic resource. A conflict in the area would throw global supply chains into disarray, and European countries are keen to head off this risk to their industrial policies.

Political factors may heighten the risk of a clash.

China, which considers Taiwan a part of its territory, sees the island as a "core interest" on which it is unwilling to give ground -- and within the Chinese Communist Party, strong voices are pushing for a speedy reunification. There are concerns within the G-7 that the party's twice-a-decade congress coming up in 2022 could fan the flames.

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