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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Blinken and top diplomats stress unity on Russia and China

Smoke rises from the site of a Russian rocket strike at an industrial complex in Slovyansk, Ukraine, March 10, 2023.

By Edward Wong

Top diplomats from the United States and the rest of the Group of 7 nations closed a three-day meeting in Japan on Tuesday with a forceful statement of unity against new assertiveness by both Russia and China, drawing a firm line on tight cooperation on security as well as economic issues.

The show of unity came after a monthslong diplomatic charm offensive by Xi Jinping, China’s leader, in which he made a point of courting European officials in Beijing and trying to peel them away from the United States. The statement by the diplomats amounted to a declaration by a core of liberal countries rallying to push back against what many of their officials called the separate predations of Russia and China.

But the discussions in Japan failed to address the thorniest issue in the countries’ dealings with China: How to reconcile their opposition to Beijing’s strategic and military goals while continuing to maintain deep trade ties with the world’s second-largest economy. Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, acknowledged Tuesday that each nation had “consequential relations” with China. Further competing visions could emerge within the group on how to balance that main tension in their ties.

As the United States and allied nations grapple with questions about their unity in dealing with Russia’s wartime aggression and China’s growing assertiveness, Blinken stressed on Tuesday at the close of the meetings in Japan that the countries spoke with one voice.

The coalition “from the get-go has led the world in galvanizing and sustaining support for Ukraine,” Blinken said at a news conference. Its members “stand with Ukraine,” he said, as the besieged country prepares for an important counteroffensive against Russia.

On China, Blinken said, the allies “are resolved and united in the need for candid discussions with Beijing about its unfair trade practices” and “its actions that undermine the international rules that all nations benefit from.” He said they are united too, on pushing back on China’s partnership with Russia.

The top diplomats from the Group of 7 nations — the United States, Japan, Canada, Britain, France, Germany and Italy, as well as the European Union — arrived in the Japanese resort hill town of Karuizawa on Sunday at a critical period of diplomacy for the allied governments.

In recent weeks, they have faced growing questions about how united they are on their approaches to the Chinese leadership on trade and security, and whether they can stay firm on their resolutions to help Ukraine win its grinding war against the Russian invaders.

The question of whether the allies would fracture over strategy, particularly on issues around China and its military actions aimed at the de facto independent island of Taiwan, has simmered because of conciliatory remarks that President Emmanuel Macron of France made during his visit earlier this month to Beijing.

The clutch of diplomats in Japan, which included Catherine Colonna of France, appeared to put aside any differences in broad outlook or tactics to focus on common approaches to policy.

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