Zelensky arrives in Hiroshima for last-minute visit to G7 summit

HIROSHIMA, Japan – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived here on Saturday for a dramatic last-minute visit to the Group of Seven summit of powerful democracies, as President Biden sought to mobilize allies against growing political, military and economic of China.

Zelensky’s trip, which had been made public just a day earlier, immediately overshadowed the leaders’ efforts to focus on issues beyond Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But it underscored the summit’s broad theme of democracies versus autocracies, as Biden and his counterparts singled out Moscow and Beijing as twin threats to a democratic world order.

In their joint statement, the G-7 nations, which include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the European Union, sought to project unity on a range of challenges global It was clear that supporting Ukraine and countering what they called China’s economic coercion remained top priorities, with the leaders specifically calling out China for not playing an active role in ending Russia’s war in Ukraine .

“We call on China to pressure Russia to stop its military aggression and immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw its troops from Ukraine,” the leaders wrote in the statement. “We encourage China to support a comprehensive, just and lasting peace based on territorial integrity and the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter, including through its direct dialogue with Ukraine.”

The joint statement, which also said the countries seek to have “constructive and stable relations with China,” came on the second day of a summit that has largely centered around Ukraine and its struggle against Russia

Zelensky, who continued his international travel spree in recent days, arrived on a French government plane after visiting Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, to address an Arab League meeting. His visit to Hiroshima, the site of World War II nuclear destruction, came as he warned against Russia’s current nuclear threats.

“Japan. G-7. Important meetings with partners and friends of Ukraine”, Zelensky he wrote on Twitter after landing in Hiroshima. “Enhanced security and cooperation for our victory. Peace will be closer today.”

Biden is likely to meet with Zelensky, who scored a major victory when White House officials confirmed Saturday that they would allow allied nations to send F-16s to Ukraine and that the United States would train Ukrainian pilots to fly the planes. western hunting For months, the Ukrainian leader has been calling for advanced air capabilities to bolster his country’s counteroffensive.

“We’ve delivered on what we promised,” Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, told reporters Saturday. “We have given Ukraine what it needs based on close consultations between our militaries and theirs. And now, we have moved on to discussions about upgrading the Ukrainian air force as part of our long-term commitment to self-defense of Ukraine”.

Sullivan described the training, which is a significant investment for Biden, who previously dismissed the need for fighter jets, as a logical next phase of the war, after providing artillery, tanks and other weapons.

Bowing to pressure, Biden gives in to F-16s over Ukraine

Before Zelensky’s arrival, leaders spent much of the day focusing on economic security, an almost explicit effort to curb China’s economic influence.

In response, Beijing criticized the G-7 leaders in a strong statement from the Foreign Ministry on Saturday evening, telling the G-7 countries to “focus on solving their own problems”.

“The era when a few developed countries in the West deliberately interfered in the internal affairs of other countries and manipulated global affairs is gone forever,” the statement said.

Beijing reversed accusations of economic coercion against Washington over its use of sanctions, but did not explicitly mention the war in Ukraine, on which China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, has repeatedly said he is in a position to mediate.

The statement of unity among the leaders on China comes after French President Emmanuel Macron traveled to China last month on a three-day trip that drew the ire of allies around the world. In particular, Macron sparked controversy after telling reporters during the trip that Europe should not “get caught up in crises that are not ours” in reference to concerns about China’s activity in Taiwan.

Sullivan, however, played down any concerns about fissures in the alliance over China. He said Biden and Macron had “a very good and constructive conversation” after the French president’s trip and maintained the language in the statement about China should come as no surprise.

“The statement didn’t happen by accident or osmosis,” Sullivan told reporters Saturday. “It happened because we have had intensive consultations with our partners about the PRC and how we approach that relationship in an effective and managed way.”

US officials said Biden hopes to engage with Xi in the coming months, but have not yet specified the timing of a meeting or phone call. The relationship between the United States and China appeared to be on a new course after the two leaders met in November on the sidelines of the Group of 20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, and replaced their staff to work together on a range of issues .

But those efforts stalled in February after a Chinese spy balloon was seen floating across the country before being shot down by the US off the Atlantic coast, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken responded by canceling a trip to Beijing

The relationship remains strained, and analysts say the possibility of progress that emerged from the Biden-Xi meeting six months ago has largely evaporated. Some worry about the increasingly tense rhetoric and expectations that positions will harden in a 2024 US presidential campaign in which anti-China rhetoric is likely to heat up.

Biden has offered very little public comment during the trip, often seen only briefly posing for photos with leaders of other countries. When pressed about the lack of media access, a senior administration official said much of it was determined by the host country, Japan.

Biden plans to hold a press conference on Sunday before returning to Washington.

The US president had initially planned a longer and more ambitious trip to counter China, but canceled stops in Papua New Guinea – where he would become the first US president to travel to the country – and Australia to return in Washington to focus on talks with congressional leaders to raise the government’s debt limit and avoid a potentially catastrophic default.

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That cancellation forced a flurry of efforts to limit the potential damage and any questioning of US commitments to the Indo-Pacific. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is now traveling to Papua New Guinea on Sunday, where he will meet Prime Minister James Marape and sign a bilateral defense cooperation agreement and a bilateral maritime security agreement.

Biden held a brief meeting Saturday night with the Quad, a group that also includes leaders from Australia, Japan and India, instead of the larger meeting that had been scheduled in Australia.

Earlier in the meeting, Biden thanked the leaders for “accommodating the change of location.”

As part of an effort to counter the influence of China and Russia, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has sought to appeal to emerging and developing countries for deeper economic and security ties with Beijing and Moscow. China has invested heavily in its trade relations and infrastructure projects with South American and African countries, and Russia’s military and political influence is growing rapidly across Africa.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused deep alarm in Japan, which saw it as a warning that a Chinese takeover of Taiwan could also be a reality. Japan is increasingly positioning itself as a regional leader in promoting a “free and open Indo-Pacific” united in shared values ​​of sovereignty and opposition to changing the status quo by force. Kishida has repeatedly warned that Russia’s invasion could have ramifications in East Asia, saying, in a veiled reference to China: “Today’s Ukraine may be tomorrow’s East Asia.”

Japan has been forging deeper relations with Southeast Asian nations with economic and security ties to China, while balancing its own economic interests with China, its main trading partner.

Kishida and Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi have also expanded their outreach to Latin American and African countries in recent months. This weekend, Japan hopes to rally other world economic powers to demonstrate its commitment to support those nations as they grapple with rising food and energy prices following Ukraine’s invasion of Russia, climate change and infrastructure needs.

To this end, Tokyo has invited the Comoros, president of this year’s African Union, and Brazil to the G-7 summit. In addition, Japan has invited Quad partner countries India and Australia; the Cook Islands, President of the Pacific Islands Forum; Indonesia, President of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations; Vietnam; and South Korea.

Global challenges “cannot be addressed by the G-7 alone, and must be addressed in cooperation with our partners in the international community, including the countries of the Global South,” Kishida said at a press conference Friday evening. using a terminology that groups together a wide range of dozens of emerging and developing nations.

“As the G-7, we hope to demonstrate that we will make a positive and concrete contribution considering the needs of the respective countries through a people-centric approach,” Kishida added.

Julia Mio Inuma contributed to this report. Tobin reported from Taipei, Taiwan.

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