G7 leaders issue veiled 'economic coercion' warning to China as Zelenskyy makes scene-stealing appearance

20 May 2023, 10:35 | Updated: 20 May 2023, 23:51

World leaders issued a veiled warning to China over "economic coercion" at the G7 summit today, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a late-notice appearance hours after he was granted permission to receive F-16 fighter jets.
World leaders issued a veiled warning to China over "economic coercion" at the G7 summit today, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a late-notice appearance hours after he was granted permission to receive F-16 fighter jets. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

World leaders issued a veiled warning to China over "economic coercion" at the G7 summit today, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a late-notice appearance hours after he was granted permission to receive F-16 fighter jets.

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Mr Zelenskyy's hastily organised visit to the international forum prompted leaders to issue a statement early, in which they condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Their pledge to counter "economic coercion" will be seen by many as being directed at China, which has been accused of using the tactic against a number of countries, as they called on Beijing to "play by international rules".

In their joint final statement, leaders spoke of their commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, and voiced their support of South East Asian and Pacific countries, which Beijing has sought to bring onside.

They also called for a "free and open Indo-Pacific", language which has previously been used in response to China's territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea.

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They also pledged work towards reducing "excessive dependences in our critical supply chains", in a reference to the G7 nations' deep trade links with China.

Leaders gathered at for a photo at G7 summit on May 20
Leaders gathered at for a photo at G7 summit on May 20. Picture: Getty

But leaders meeting at the summit stressed that they sought "constructive and stable relations" with China, adding that their police are "not designed to harm China nor do we seek to thwart China's economic progress and development".

The Ukrainian president has lobbied the West to allow Kyiv's air force access to the American warplane for months.

US President Joe Biden, who met with Rishi Sunak and other leaders in Hiroshima, has removed the final obstacles that will allow countries to send the "Fighting Falcon" for use against Vladimir Putin's invaders.

"Japan. G7. Important meetings with partners and friends of Ukraine. Security and enhanced cooperation for our victory. Peace will become closer today," Mr Zelenskyy said in a tweet.

He embraced Mr Sunak as he arrived on Saturday.

He joined leaders from France, Italy, Germany, Japan and Canada, as well as the EU - some of his country's most important sources of military, financial and diplomatic support in the war.

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President Zelenskyy embraced Rishi Sunak
President Zelenskyy embraced Rishi Sunak. Picture: Alamy

Kyiv, which relies on Soviet aircraft, has repeatedly lobbied for Western jets.

The F-16 is widely used in the US and other militaries, though the UK, which flies the Eurofighter Typhoon and the newer, highly-advanced F-35, does not operate it.

Ukrainian pilots will now be trained on the platform ahead of any transfer, which legally requires US approval.

Read more: Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomes Joe Biden backing plan to help Ukraine with fighter jets

Russia has put out bellicose rhetoric every time new equipment is transferred that will hamper its bloody invasion. Its deputy foreign minister Alexander Grushko warned of "colossal risks" for the West.

Earlier on Saturday, Mr Sunak tweeted: "Welcome announcement that the US will approve the training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets.

"The UK will work together with the USA and the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark to get Ukraine the combat air capability it needs. We stand united."

F-16s can now be sent to Ukraine's air force
F-16s can now be sent to Ukraine's air force. Picture: Alamy

India has not backed Ukraine like the West, deliberately charting a course between it and Russia.

Mr Sunak said: "We should be clear-eyed about the growing challenge we face. China is engaged in a concerted and strategic economic contest.

"And when Russia weaponised Europe's energy supplies, it was a sign of what can happen when we rely too much on states who don’t share our values."

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