G7 foreign ministers oppose provocation in East and South China Seas

G7 foreign ministers (L to R) E.U. High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, Canada's Foreign Minister Stephane Dion, Britain's Foreign Minister Philip Hammond, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Italy's Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni and France's Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault stand together after placing wreaths at the cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum in Hiroshima, Japan April 11, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

HIROSHIMA (Reuters) - Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies said they strongly opposed provocation in the East and South China Seas, where China is locked in territorial disputes with nations including the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan.

In the latest verbal exchange on who controls the vital trade waterways, China said it had not seen the G7 statement, but that countries in the region were seeking to promote stability and that disputes were being “exaggerated”.

“If the G7 wants to continue playing a major role in the world, it should take an attitude of seeking truth from the facts to handle the issues the international community is most concerned with at the moment,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily news briefing.

“If the G7 is taken hostage by the selfish interests of certain countries, then this probably won’t be beneficial to the G7’s influence, role and future development.”

Earlier on Monday, the G7 foreign ministers said after meeting in the Japanese city of Hiroshima that they opposed “any intimidating coercive or provocative unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions”.

In an apparent reference to China’s territorial spat with the Philippines, the group also called on countries to observe international maritime laws and implement any binding judgments delivered by courts and tribunals.

Manila has asked the International Court of Arbitration in the Hague to decide on its dispute with Beijing, which has said it does not recognize the case. A ruling is expected by June.

China is building islands on reefs in the South China Sea to bolster its claims. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims on the waters, that are believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas and through which an estimated $5 trillion in trade is shipped every year.

Reporting by Tim Kelly in TOKYO and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Michael Perry and Mike Collett-White