Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven industrialized nations started a three-day meeting Monday in London, focusing on ways to achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific and on action to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

The first in-person G-7 foreign ministers' meeting in two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the gathering is expected to showcase the unity of democratic nations in dealing with global issues, an apparent rebuke of China and Russia which U.S. President Joe Biden has labeled as autocratic regimes.

During a working dinner that marked the beginning of the gathering, the ministers "agreed to stand firm on the goal of the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization" of North Korea, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said at an online press conference.

Britain, which holds the rotating G-7 presidency this year, is seeking to strengthen ties with countries outside the European Union in pursuit of its Global Britain initiative following its exit from what is now the 27-nation bloc.

Representatives of Australia, India, South Korea, South Africa and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will join parts of the meeting as guests in reflection of the Indo-Pacific's growing presence as an engine of global growth.

The move follows Britain's pronouncement of a "tilt" to the region in its new diplomatic strategy released in March.

While applying for membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a regional free trade agreement, Britain will dispatch the aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth and its strike group to the Indo-Pacific this year, as China steps up its assertiveness and military buildup in the region.

Motegi and his peers from the G-7 and guest countries are also expected to discuss measures to promote human rights and tackle other issues such as Iran, as well as Russia's attempts to undermine Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Focus will also be on the United States' realigned foreign policy platform as the Biden administration shifts away from former President Donald Trump's "America First" approach.

Ensuring fair access rights to coronavirus vaccines and agreeing ambitious action to address climate change are also likely to be on the agenda.

"The G-7 meeting shows 'Global Britain' bringing the world's biggest democracies together to tackle shared challenges," British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.

The London meeting will lay the groundwork for an in-person G-7 leaders' summit slated for June in Cornwall, southwestern England, which will bring together Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Biden, who took office in January, among others.

In a teleconference in February, the G-7 leaders vowed to make 2021 a turning point for promoting multilateralism, a marked contrast to Trump's go-it-alone approach.

The G-7 groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, as well as the European Union.