Leaders of the G7 gather in Japan this weekend amid global fears of a US debt default, deepening division over energy policy and no end in sight for the war in Ukraine.

But for Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida, the top challenge for the annual summit of advanced economies will be whether it can project a unified G7 response to China’s military ambitions and its use of “economic coercion” as US Treasury secretary Janet Yellen described it last week.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Kishida has tried to align with G7 counterparts in the US, UK, France, Italy, Germany and Canada by rolling out tough sanctions against Moscow and forging closer ties with the Nato alliance. He has also approved a significant increase in Japan’s military spending to counter the threat from China.

When he hosts the summit in his family’s home city of Hiroshima, Kishida — who has repeatedly warned that “Ukraine might be east Asia tomorrow” — will want similarly strong support from Europe over how the G7 should tackle China and the risk of a conflict over Taiwan.

“It is crucial for the G7 to confirm that any unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force or coercion is unacceptable in any part of the world,” Kishida said last month. “I believe this will lead to a unified response by the international community when something similar to Ukraine happens outside of Europe.”

Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida, left, with US president Joe Biden, German chancellor Olaf Scholz and other leaders at a Nato summit in March © Henry Nicholls/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The issue has been divisive for the west. French president Emmanuel Macron sparked an international outcry last month when he warned during a trip to China that Europe should not get “caught up in crises that are not ours”.

“The G7 rose to the moment in the Ukraine crisis . . . But the Indo-Pacific presents its own challenges in the aftermath of Macron’s comments,” said Mireya Solís, a Japan expert at the Brookings Institution. “Tokyo would like to see a strong statement that the grouping of democracies stands aligned in the face of the China challenge.”

The US is also pushing for as united a front as possible. President Joe Biden’s administration has started emphasising that its China policy is focused on “de-risking” and not “decoupling”. US officials adopted the phrase from European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen in an effort to reassure G7 allies the US was not pushing for a more draconian approach to Beijing.

A big focus of the Hiroshima summit will be how far the member countries can outline a concerted response to Beijing’s raids of foreign companies and detention of corporate executives.

The G7 plans to issue for the first time a separate statement on economic security alongside the main summit communiqué. The statement will include a commitment to “collectively deter, respond to and counter economic coercion”, according to documents seen by the Financial Times.

People familiar with the discussions say, however, that China will not be named in the statement and the G7 is unlikely to reach an agreement on specific new economic security tools beyond co-operation on supply chains to reduce their reliance on China.

China has argued that it is “the victim of US economic coercion” rather than a perpetrator, saying Washington has overstretched the concept of national security and “abused” the use of export controls.

“If the G7 summit is to discuss response to economic coercion, perhaps it should first discuss what the US has done,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Friday. “As the G7 host, would Japan express some of those concerns to the US on behalf of the rest of the group who have been bullied by the US? Or at least speak a few words of the truth?”

The US last year introduced sweeping export controls that would severely complicate efforts by Chinese companies to develop cutting-edge technologies with military applications. Washington is now seeking the support of its allies as it finalises a new outbound investment-screening mechanism aimed at China.

“It is possible to reach an agreement that economic security is important, but there is still a large gap between the US, EU and Japan when it comes to rolling out offensive measures such as export controls,” said Kazuto Suzuki, professor at the University of Tokyo. In March, Japan unveiled curbs on the export of 23 different kinds of technology as part of a deal reached with the US and the Netherlands, but officials in Tokyo have stressed the measures are not targeted against a single country.

Deep economic ties to China also make the EU reluctant to follow Washington’s hardline approach. European capitals fear a return to a Cold War situation, with China in place of the USSR, leaving Europe at best a US satellite and at worst a battleground between the two.

European officials have stressed that the G7 should increase outreach to other countries, particularly developing economies in Asia, Africa and South America. “[Our] purpose is to not transform the G7 into an anti-China club,” said a senior EU official involved in G7 preparation.

The G7 has invited the leaders of non-member nations such as India, Indonesia, Brazil and Vietnam to the Hiroshima summit.

“We would like to strengthen G7’s outreach to international partners through . . . calls for co-operation in addressing the challenges facing the international community . . . such as energy and food security, climate change, health and development,” Yoshimasa Hayashi, Japan’s foreign minister, said in a written interview with the Financial Times. “We would like to affirm G7’s unity in these regards.”

These comments come even as the G7 remains divided on energy policy, including Japan’s promotion of ammonia as a low-carbon energy source and Germany’s push for G7 endorsement of public investment in the gas sector.

Christopher Johnstone, Japan chair at US think-tank CSIS, said Tokyo was still keen to engage with non-G7 countries because Russia’s membership of the G20 had fractured that broader grouping.

“Tokyo is concerned that has opened the door to expanded Chinese influence across the developing world, where criticism of western hypocrisy finds resonance,” Johnstone said. “Kishida is attempting to mitigate the fact by bringing more voices to the table at the G7.”

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