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Zelensky makes dramatic Japan appearance as G7 leaders take aim at Russia and China

<i>Kenny Holston/Pool/AP</i><br/>President Joe Biden
Kenny Holston/Pool/AP
President Joe Biden

By Kevin Liptak, Betsy Klein and Simone McCarthy, CNN

(CNN) — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky joined leaders of major democracies on Saturday at a summit in Japan dominated by a push to present a unified front against both Russia and China.

The Group of Seven (G7) talks in Hiroshima are seeking common ground on a host of global issues, including how to confront Beijing’s growing military and economic assertiveness as well as the war raging in Europe.

Zelensky, dressed in his trademark military themed clothing, made a headline-grabbing entrance as he touched down on board a French government plane in a Japanese city once obliterated by a nuclear bomb.

“Japan. G7. Important meetings with partners and friends of Ukraine. Security and enhanced cooperation for our victory. Peace will become closer today,” he tweeted moments after arriving before heading to a dizzying round of bilateral meetings with leaders at the summit.

His attendance underscores the pressing need to maintain Western unity in the face of Russian aggression.

With Russia’s aerial assaults pounding Ukrainian cities and Kyiv preparing for a counter offensive, there is a growing urgency to Zelensky’s appeals for more advanced weapons and tighter sanctions on Moscow.

A joint communique issued by G7 nations on Saturday focused heavily on Russia’s war against Ukraine, which the block “condemned in the strongest possible terms”.

“We reaffirm our unwavering support for Ukraine for as long as it takes to bring a comprehensive, just and lasting peace,” the communique read.

A day earlier G7 nations announced a string of further sanctions against Moscow while US President Joe Biden told his counterparts he was dropping objections to providing Ukrainians F16 fighter jets and would train Ukrainian pilots in the United States, a major advance in US military support for the country.

Biden is expected to unveil a $375 million military aid package to Ukraine after the summit hears from Zelensky, officials familiar with the matter said, but leaders are confronting a wide-ranging set of issues beyond the war-torn country during their talks, including climate change and emerging artificial intelligence technologies.

A common approach to China?

But Russia is not the only focus of the three day gathering, which Zelensky is set to address on Sunday.

China also features heavily.

Differences persist between the United States and Europe in how to manage their increasingly fraught relationships with the world’s second largest economy.

But in Saturday’s joint communique, leaders spoke in one voice on a series of positions related to China, including the need to counter “economic coercion” and protect advanced technologies that could threaten national security, while also stressing that cooperation with Beijing was necessary.

“A growing China that plays by international rules would be of global interest. We are not decoupling or turning inwards,” the communique read.

Leaders called on Beijing not to “conduct interference activities” that could undermine the “integrity of our democratic institutions and our economic prosperity” – an apparent nod to recent allegations that Beijing’s interfered in Canadian elections and operates of a network of overseas police stations across the globe.

A separate joint statement on economic security made no specific mention of China – while explicitly referencing Russia – but its intended audience was unmistakably Beijing’s leadership.

The leaders called for enhancing supply chain resilience, hitting back against “harmful industrial subsidies,” and protecting sensitive technologies crucial to national security – all areas that leaders have expressed concerns about in recent years in relation to China’s economic practices.

Western leaders and officials were more direct in framing the measures as a response to threats from China in comments made around the statement.

Ahead of its release on Saturday, the United Kingdom released a statement on G7 measures against economic coercion, which pointed to China’s use of its “economic power to coerce countries including Australia and Lithuania over political disputes.”

China is “engaged in a concerted and strategic economic contest,” and nations “should be clear-eyed” about the growing challenge we face,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in the statement released by Downing Street, which also referenced Russia’s “weaponization” of Europe’s energy supplies.

European Commission President Ursual von der Leyen welcomed the G7 action in a statement Saturday that nations must be “aware of the risk of weaponization of interdependencies,” but “urged de-risking not decoupling” – a term she has used to refer to how the EU should approach its economic relationship with China.

China has already pushed back ahead of G7 discussions, with its Foreign Ministry on Thursday posting a more than 5,000 word document on its website that reached back as far as 1960s Cuba to point to what it described as examples of “America’s Coercive Diplomacy and Its Harm.”

“The US often accuses other countries of using great power status, coercive policies and economic coercion to pressure other countries into submission and engage in coercive diplomacy,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in a regular press briefing in Beijing Friday.

“The fact is, the US is the very origin of coercive diplomacy. It is the US and the US alone who owns the copyrights of coercive diplomacy,” he said, adding that China has “no taste for coercion and bullying.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Saturday that the decisions being made at the G7 summit were aimed to “deter” Russia and China.

“It is not hidden that the existence of Russia as an independent center is incompatible with achieving the goal of the global dominance of the West,” he said in a speech before the Russian Council on Foreign and Defense Policy.

Debt ceiling

Climate change was also a major theme of this weekend’s gathering with the joint communique including a pledge that the G7 would drive the economic transition to clean energy.

“We commit to realizing the transformation of the economic and social system towards net-zero, circular, climate-resilient, pollution-free and nature-positive economies,” the communique read.

The leaders also signaled they would closely monitor the rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI), by advancing discussions on AI governance and interoperability in line with “shared democratic values.”

Biden is balancing his world leader talks with updates from the standoff over the US debt ceiling in Washington – a “subject of interest” in the president’s summit meetings, according to Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

“Countries want to have a sense of how these negotiations are going to play out. And the president has expressed confidence that he believes that we can drive to an outcome where we do avoid default, and part of the reason that he’s returning home tomorrow, rather than continuing with the rest of the trip, is so that he can help lead the effort to bring it home,” Sullivan said.

Speaking to reporters as he met Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Japan, Biden said he was not concerned “at all” about negotiations with House Republicans to avoid a default.

“This goes in stages. I’ve been in these negotiations before,” Biden said.

Biden, who departed a leaders’ dinner early on Friday to return to his hotel to receive additional information from staff, has gotten continual updates on the negotiations underway in Washington.

Quad leaders meet

Quad leaders representing Australia, India, Japan and the United States gathered Saturday evening for a scaled-back, hastily convened meeting in Hiroshima after Biden had scrapped a planned trip to Australia amid the debt ceiling standoff.

Albanese led the meeting, thanking the leaders “for showing how we are indeed an outcomes-focused grouping that can get things done and can be flexible,” prompting some laughter from Biden.

“It’s an example of our resolve,” Albanese said of the rescheduled meeting.

Biden repeatedly referenced the change, offering an apology and his thanks.

“Gentlemen, thank you for accommodating the change of location,” the US president said, thanking Albanese for his “gracious flexibility” to hold the meeting in Japan.

“While our setting is different today, our vision remains the same, and that is to advance our vision of a free, open, secure, prosperous Indo-Pacific,” Biden said, pointing to “enormous progress” made by the group on secure telecommunications, strengthened cooperation on submarine cables and private sector investments.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced during the meeting that his country will host the 2024 Quad summit.

This story has been updated with additional details.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Phil Mattingly, Sugam Pokharel and Darya Tarasova contributed to this report.

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