(Karuizawa) At the foot of Mount Asama in Japan, the heads of diplomacy of the G7 countries presented a united front on Monday in the face of the challenges posed by China, rejecting any difference of opinion concerning the Asian giant.

Gathered in the posh ski resort of Karuizawa, about 100 kilometers from Tokyo, the foreign ministers of the major industrialized countries devoted a good part of their discussions to the rise of China, and reiterated their support for the Ukraine versus Russia.

The Japanese presidency of the G7 (France, Japan, United States, Canada, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom) had clearly displayed the color by organizing a closed-door dinner on Sunday evening on China and North Korea.

The ministers there condemned the recent North Korean missile launches and reaffirmed “the strong determination of the G7 not to accept any attempt to change the status quo by force”, according to a report of the meeting.

As a reminder of tensions with China over the Taiwan issue, a US destroyer sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, where Beijing, which claims the island as part of its territory, had recently held extensive military exercises.

“The international community is now at a historic juncture,” Japanese Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said on Monday, stressing that “G7 unity is extremely important” in this regard.

But French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent remarks on China hovered over the meeting.

Returning from a visit to China, he had defended in an interview the need for European “strategic autonomy” in the face of the risk of seeing the EU drawn into a conflict between Washington and Beijing, in particular on the question of Taiwan.

Publicly, American officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, refrained from denouncing these remarks, contrary to a certain exasperation displayed by European countries such as Poland.

Paris, for its part, tried to defuse the controversy, reaffirming that France’s position had not changed. France remains “deeply attached to respect for the status quo, as well as to the preservation of peace and stability between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait”, recalled French Minister Catherine Colonna.

The head of American diplomacy and his French counterpart also met on the sidelines of the G7 on Monday, displaying, according to Mr. Blinken, their “convergence” of views.

“We are united, we send the same clear signal to the rest of the world that any situation requires respect for international law, a prerequisite for the rest,” Colonna told reporters.

“A lot of ministers have recently visited China,” noted a senior American official, referring to a “broad consensus in the room to remain engaged with China”.

“There is a lot of unity” around the table which will be set to music in the final communiqué of the meeting expected on Tuesday, added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The ministers will send the message “that we want to work with China, but that we will certainly oppose any coercion” from Beijing, according to this source.

However, experts underline the difficulty of obtaining a consensus.

“The Europeans have moved closer to the positions defended by the United States vis-à-vis China and Taiwan. However, this did not lead to a consensus”, notes Jacques deLisle, of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, especially since there are “differences also among the Europeans themselves”.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called on European countries not to “limit themselves to defending the European peace order” nor to “retreat into their shell”, but to act “with a broad vision of the world”. .

“Strategic autonomy, you call it what you want. The fact is that we must have the means to protect ourselves against our vulnerabilities”, summarizes a European official.

Ministers also agreed to step up efforts to “prevent and respond to sanctions evasion” against Russia as well as “the supply of arms to Russia by third parties”, which could be seen as a new warning to China.