UPDATE 7-G7 agrees need strong message on South China Sea; China says don't "hype"

Thu May 26, 2016 10:28am EDT
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* G7 agrees need to send clear message on South, East China seas

* Beijing opposes "hyping" South China Sea for personal gain

* Obama says North Korea "hell bent" on getting nuclear weapons

* G7 worried about emerging economies, Abe references Lehman shock (Adds Abe comments on North Korea, changes byline)

By Thomas Wilson and Kiyoshi Takenaka

ISE-SHIMA, Japan, May 26 (Reuters) - Group of Seven (G7) leaders agreed on Thursday on the need to send a strong message on maritime claims in the western Pacific, where an increasingly assertive China is locked in territorial disputes with Japan and several Southeast Asian nations.

The agreement prompted a sharp rejoinder from China, which is not in the G7 club but whose rise as a power has put it at the heart of some discussions at the advanced nations' summit in Ise-Shima, central Japan.

"Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe led discussion on the current situation in the South China Sea and East China Sea. Other G7 leaders said it is necessary for G7 to issue a clear signal," Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko told reporters after a session on foreign policy affairs.

At a news conference late on Wednesday, Abe said Japan welcomed China's peaceful rise while repeating Tokyo's opposition to acts that try to change the status quo by force. He also urged respect for the rule of law. Both principles are expected to be mentioned in a statement after the summit.   Continued...