February 20, 2023
MUNICH — Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven countries agreed Saturday to remain united in their support of Ukraine and to maintain sanctions against Russia.
The ministers — meeting in Munich ahead of the first anniversary on Friday of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — also discussed North Korea’s Saturday launch of a ballistic missile and affirmed cooperation over the issue.
It was the first time this year for Japan to host G7 talks in its role as 2023 president. The foreign ministers, including Yoshimasa Hayashi and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, were joined by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who was invited to the talks to emphasize the G7’s solidarity with Ukraine.
During the meeting, Hayashi expressed his desire to demonstrate the G7’s determination to uphold the international order based on the rule of law, as well as to continue providing full support to Ukraine. He strongly condemned the North Korean missile launch, calling it a threat to the peace and security of the region and the international community, and called for close cooperation among the G7 members.
Countries including the United States, Britain and Germany have decided to provide Ukraine with main battle tanks to reinforce its military capability, though Kyiv is seeking further support. Japan is not allowed to provide lethal weapons under the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology, so has instead focused on such efforts as providing power generators and assisting with landmine clearance. During the Munich meeting, the G7 foreign ministers agreed to continue their support for Ukraine, while taking into account each country’s circumstances.
At the meeting, a number of G7 foreign ministers stressed the need to improve the effectiveness of the sanctions imposed on Russia to ensure they cannot be circumvented.
The Chair Statement issued after the talks called on third states supporting Russia to suspend their assistance. It suggested that sanctions be imposed on such countries, warning they would “face severe costs” if they failed to respond. The statement also condemned Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian civilians and critical infrastructure and stressed the G7’s commitment to holding those responsible to account.
The statement said the G7 countries also “opposed any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion” in the Indo-Pacific — apparently with China’s increasing hegemonic behavior in mind.
The G7 has increased its activities in leading support measures and sanctions in the face of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Last year, the G7 countries held six summits and 11 foreign ministers’ meetings, including online talks.
A G7 summit will take place in Hiroshima in three months’ time. Together with G7 foreign ministers’ talks to be held in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, on April 16-18, the Hiroshima summit, scheduled for May 19-21, is likely to provide Japan with an opportunity to demonstrate its leadership and resolve, both at home and abroad. As the G7 chair, Japan is poised to lead discussions on mid- to long-term support for Ukraine, and the situation in the Indo-Pacific.