G7 japan.jpg
Photograph: EPA/KIMIMASA MAYAMA

Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized nations Monday vowed to enhance their efforts towards nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation at a meeting in the western Japanese city of Hiroshima.

"We reaffirm our commitment to seeking a safer world for all and creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons in a way that promotes international stability,” the ministers said in a statement called the “Hiroshima Declaration,” which was issued after two days of talks.

In a separate statement, the G7 condemned “in the strongest terms” nuclear and ballistic missile tests carried out by North Korea this year.

“We demand North Korea not conduct any further nuclear tests or launches that use ballistic missile technology, nor engage in any other destabilizing or provocative actions,” they said.

The meeting came amid growing tension over North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes and China's increasingly aggressive claims to nearly all of the South China Sea.

The ministers expressed concerns about maritime tensions in the East and South China Seas.

"We express our strong opposition to any intimidating, coercive or provocative unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions," they said in an apparent criticism of China’s expansionist moves.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang expressed frustration at the ministers’ discussion on South China Sea issues, saying some of the G7 countries have hyped up tensions in the disputed sea and that the group as a whole should not be swayed by its "selfish interests," Kyodo News reported.

In the wake of a series of deadly terrorist attacks in Brussels last month, the ministers also agreed to draw up a G7 action plan to counter terrorism, which their leaders can adopt at the summit meeting in the coastal city of Shima in May.

“We are determined to employ coordinated efforts and action to tackle global challenges including terrorism and violent extremism, political instability as well as new types of security threats or non-traditional threats,” the statement said.

Earlier in the day, the ministers laid a wreath at the memorial for victims of the atomic bomb dropped on the city in the closing days of World War II, 71 years ago.

“Honoured to pay first ever G7 visit to Hiroshima Peace Memorial. Remembering the past to build peace for the future,” EU foreign affairs representative Federica Mogherini wrote on Twitter.

US Secretary of State John Kerry became the highest-ranking American official ever to visit the memorial site.

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