G7 diplomats meet in the wake of Macron's Taiwan remarks, aiming for unity

By Jan van der Made - RFI
Geopolitics REUTERS - POOL

For G7 diplomats meeting in the Japanese resort town of Karuizawa, unity was the name of the game on Monday, with ministers lining up to insist there is no daylight between them on China policy. The two days of talks are taking place after the fallout caused by controversial remarks from French President Emmanuel Macron, who last week suggested Europe should avoid "crises that aren't ours."

Europe should not limit its defence policy to its own borders but must act with a broad worldview, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Monday after talks on China with G7 counterparts.

Europeans "must not withdraw into our shells. We must not limit ourselves to defending the European peace," Baerbock told a press conference in Karuizawa, Japan, where the gathering of the top diplomats was taking place.

As the ministers began talks, the US Navy announced it had sailed a guided-missile destroyer through the Taiwan Strait in a freedom-of-navigation operation, with Beijing saying it had tracked the vessel.

The controversy over President Macron's remarks will prompt closer scrutiny of whatever language a final statement uses on China and its threats to seize self-ruled Taiwan.

But comments during bilateral talks on Monday showed the direction of travel, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying discussions so far had "only reinforced the convergence of views that we have," as he met with his French counterpart Catherine Colonna.

"We're united, we're giving clearly the same signal to the rest of the world that any situation requires respect of international law as a precondition to the rest," Colonna added.

Colonna's comments contrast with those of the French president. They were "quite problematic for several reasons," Antoine Bondaz, a research fellow with the Foundation of Strategic Research told RFI.

The French leader tried to "put in parallel, European unity and Chinese unity," or " cooperation and the coordination among sovereign states" with "the willingness of one country, China, to take over a sovereign state, Taiwan."

Macron's second perceived faux pas was to talk about "the origin and the responsibility for the current tension in the Taiwan Strait, and to put the blame mostly on the US," and saying that the Taiwan problem should not be Europe's problem. 

Descriibing Macron's remarks as showing an "unnessearcy ambiguity," Bondaz says that French foreign and security policy is "quite explicit. France is not equidistant between China and the US. France is a strong ally of the US," pointing out that Paris shares "many legitimate concerns with our European allies and like-minded countries," something which is clear from the common EU and G7 statements, he says. 

According to Bondaz, Macron's remarks gave China a chance to exploit differences between European allies to "try, as always, to divide Europeans and like-minded countries. (Macron) gave them a pretext to do so," he says. 

'Not withdraw in our shells'

It was Germany which first tried to set the record straight. 

On a visit to Beijing last week, which came just after Macron's rendez-vous with China's strongman Xi Jinping, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock warned of a "horror scenario" in the case of a "military escalation" in the Taiwan Strait.

And during the ongoing G7 meeting in Japan, she added that "Europe should not only defend its own peace but act with a broad worldview." 

Europeans "must not withdraw into our shells. We must not limit ourselves to defending the European peace, because it is under attack," Baerbock told a press conference in Karuizawa, Japan, where the gathering of the top diplomats was taking place.

"We must act independently with a broad view of the world, especially when others suddenly act to our detriment or to the detriment of others," she added.

Baerbock also warned that China "wants to replace the existing, binding international rules with its own rules," listing examples of Beijing's aggressive behaviour in disputed waters, such as building artificial islands.

Such actions "endanger the international order in the Indo-Pacific. All this makes it clear why it is so important, especially in these times, for countries that believe in the international rules-based order to stand together".

(With  news agencies)