Discord over South China Sea clouds Asia-Europe summit

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte chats with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit just outside Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte chats with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit just outside Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

A key summit between Asian and European leaders in Mongolia ended on Saturday without direct mention of the South China Sea dispute in its closing statement, with diplomats describing intense discord over the issue between Europe and Asia.

China has refused to recognize Tuesday’s ruling by an arbitration court in The Hague invalidating its vast claims in the South China Sea and did not take part in the proceedings brought by the Philippines. It has reacted angrily to calls by Western countries and Japan for the decision to be adhered to.

China had flagged ahead of the Ulaanbaatar get-together that it did not want the South China Sea to be discussed, saying it was not an appropriate venue.

The closing statement said leaders reaffirmed a commitment to promote maritime security, safety and cooperation, freedom of navigation and overflight and to refrain from using threatening force.

It also said disputes should be resolved via international law, the United Nations charter and U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS.

European Council President Donald Tusk told reporters he hoped the court’s decision would create positive momentum in finding a solution to the dispute.

“Still, it’s not so easy to agree with our Chinese partners when it comes to these issues but our talks were difficult, tough but also promising,” he said.

On Friday, the European Union issued a statement noting China’s legal defeat but avoided direct reference to Beijing, reflecting discord among EU governments over how strongly to respond to the court ruling.

While the European Union is neutral in China’s dispute with its Asian neighbors in the South China Sea, Britain, France and Germany want to make clear that Beijing must uphold international law as it seeks a bigger global role.

But speaking with one European voice has become difficult as some smaller governments, including Hungary and Greece, rely on Chinese investment and are unwilling to criticize Beijing.


The panel ruled Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of trade moves annually, had interfered with the Philippines’ sovereign rights. Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to the strategic waterway.

There was no bilateral meeting between the Chinese and Philippines foreign ministers, a Philippine diplomatic source told Reuters, though the Chinese initially requested a meeting at the beginning of the summit.

Chinese officials did not speak to foreign reporters during the summit. China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the summit and the South China Sea.

State news agency Xinhua quoted Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as saying on Saturday in Ulaanbaatar that the court’s decision would have “no impact whatsoever” on Chinese sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea.

Li had told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the previous day that Japan should stop interfering in the issue.

Japan met with several countries including the Philippines and Vietnam and told them Japan would cooperate with them to enforce the decision, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

A diplomat from Russia, which has close ties with China and has supported its position over the arbitration case, said the West was hectoring.

“If you understand how the other side lives, you’re more tolerant,” he said. “The West always starts with teaching. Asians never do that.”

A Mongolian diplomat said negotiations over the closing statement were “intense”.

“The Europeans wanted lots on the South China Sea but the Asians didn’t.”

(Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

Source: Reuters “Discord over South China Sea clouds Asia-Europe summit”


6 Comments on “Discord over South China Sea clouds Asia-Europe summit”

  1. Joseph says:

    Discord? What I saw in the summit was nobody obviously cared about SCS issue, not even the Dutch prime minister, yet they have to pay lip services to the American. But it was expected. When the American disregard The Hague tribunal on Nicaragua, many countries in the world also called the US to abide by the court ruling, which the US blatantly rejected. 30 years on, the US never honored the ruling, yet they asked other country to do so. The American is really set a good example. Ironically, back in 1986, China was not among those who called America to obey The Hague ruling, which undoubtedly spared China to be a hypocrite that America is today.


  2. Steve says:

    According to a report from theASEM summit, Premier Li’s statements have been keenly received and Won the backing from a number of both Asian and European heavyweights. Even Vietnam’s Nguyen Xuan Phuc said his nation respects China’s stance on the arbitration, adding that the disputes should be solved peacefully thru negotiations. Russian PM Medvedev also supported China and against internationalising the SCS disputes and non interference from outsiders.

    The unashamed barking dogs was of course the Japanese willing to support and ‘enforce’ the arbitration award. These unkindly JAPs are spoiling for a fight in the SCS. The only thing the Japanese are hoping for is a major confrontation in the ECS and SCS with their US allies. Should the SCS flares up into an open military confrontation, the flames of war will blow thru the ECS, probably what Japan is hoping for


  3. Simon says:

    I would actually welcome China accepting a junior partner other than the Phillipines in sharing resources in Scarborough Shoal and other neighbouring islands just to teach the Filipinos and American a lesson for being provocative.


  4. Simon says:

    The West and its lacky the Japs want to tell Asia what to do, that is clear.
    The PCA does not have the right to arbitrate international law that are legally binding, only the UN charter operated by a UN agency has that rights. The UN did not allow the PCA to arbitrate on its behalf under their UNCLOS.


  5. Fre Okin says:

    Further, China should promote the idea that the PCA ruling is so flawed, nobody should take it seriously. No reasonable people in their right mind can say Itu Aba is a rock when Thitu island which is smaller have over 200 residents.

    The PCA have completely invalidate her verdict against China by making the most outrageous conclusion Itu Aba is merely a rock. “A significant part of the international opinion considers Itu Aba an ‘island,’ contrary to the Tribunal’s judgment.” http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/south-china-sea-arbitration-award-breathtaking-17004

    So it is fair to say the Whole Verdict against China is totally flawed. Why should the fate of countries around South China Sea be determined by the PCA ? Why should China’s reputation be smeared by this institution that may have hidden agenda against China for not showing up? Yes, this panel of judges make a mockery of the PCA institution. The Philippines may think their Thitu Island with over 200 occupants is an Island and is certainly shocked the bigger Itu Aba island is deemed a rock! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thitu_Island

    No wonder then, many countries are in disbelief and don’t agree with PCA decision and thus won’t condemn China.


  6. Fre Okin says:

    “Japan met with several countries including the Philippines and Vietnam and told them Japan would cooperate with them to enforce the decision, a foreign ministry spokesman said.”

    Japanese gangster trying to take attention away from Diaoyu/Senkaku. How can this gangster Abe talk about the SCS dispute when Japan arrested Taiwanese fishermen a few months ago when they fish in international waters? This Abe thug claim Okinotori atoll have 200 NM EEZ. Who is he trying to fool?

    Japan censored by post Twice for exposing her hooliganism.

    “Japan’s Kyodo news agency said Abe told Li that a rules-based international order must be respected.”
    Li should have asked Abe if Japan arresting Taiwanese fishermen recently near Okinotori is a rules-based behavior per UNCLOS. Obviously Japan don’t follow international law there since Okinotori atoll do not have 200 NM EEZ.
    “The Okinotori islands vs. rock question flared up again on April 25, when Japan’s Coast Guard detained 10 Taiwanese fishermen 150 nautical miles from Okinotori, inside what Tokyo claims as its EEZ.” http://thediplomat.com/2016/05/taiwan-japan-fishing-dispute-heats-up/