In preparation for the G7 heads of state meeting in June, the UK this week hosts a gathering of foreign ministers from the seven most industrialised nations. Their counterparts from Australia, India, South Korea and South Africa are also attending.
The ministers will discuss “crises and major issues in the area of international politics”, according to a statement from the French Foreign Ministry. A special session will be devoted to the Indo-Pacific region.
There will also be discussion about “the defence of democratic values in the face of the rise in authoritarian regimes”.
During the opening session on Tuesday morning, the meeting’s host, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, specified that “the increasingly aggressive activities of Russia, China and Iran pose a challenge to democratic societies and the international rule of law”.
The talks agenda includes the coup in Myanmar, the Tigray crisis in Ethiopia and the precarious situation in Afghanistan, where US troops and their Nato allies are winding down a two-decade-long deployment.
The UK Foreign Office said the group will discuss “Russia’s ongoing malign activity,” including Moscow’s troop build up on the border with Ukraine and the imprisonment of opposition politician Alexei Navalny.
G7 ministers will also try to agree on a way to make coronavirus vaccines available around the globe.
Wealthy countries have been reluctant to give up precious stocks until they have inoculated their own populations.
Organisers of the foreign ministers’ conference have taken steps to prevent the spread of Covid-19 at the London meeting, including setting up plastic screens between participants and making on-site coronavirus tests available.
Questioning the Quad
The invitation of foreign ministers from Australia, India and South Korea indicates that consideration of the Indo-Pacific may include discussion about the increasing assertiveness of China in the region, and growing worries about the safety of Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a rebellious province that may be unified with the mainland using “non-peaceful means”.
G7 members US and Japan, as well as India and Australia, form the Quadrilateral Dialogue, or Quad, an initiative that was created to counter growing Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific. France took part in Quad military exercises in the Bay of Bengal and is reported to be joining military exercises in Japan next week.
China has ridiculed the Quad, saying that it is a “loose group” with members paying “lip service” to US hegemonic ambitions.
But China’s Global Times newspaper has also reported that the Chinese navy’s second aircraft carrier, the Shandong, is holding its first drill since being put into service, in the South China Sea.
Navy spokesperson Gao Xiucheng was quoted as expressing the hope that “the outside world can view [the Shandong’s exercise] objectively and rationally. The PLA naval wing will continue to organise similar exercises regularly in the future.”