- The Asia-Europe Meeting summit, which was concluded on Saturday, July 16, brought together Asian and Mongolian leaders to discuss better cooperation between the two regions
- During the conference, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe upholds that the international tribunal’s ruling on the South China Sea should be respected by China
- Beijing adamantly rejects the verdict and tells Abe to stop interfering in the dispute
At the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) yesterday, July 16, the Japanese government increased pressure on Beijing to respect the Hague’s ruling on the South China Sea, which ruled that China’s claim on the area holds no legal basis.
At the summit at Ulan Bator, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe affirmed that the rule of law was 'a universal principle that the international community must firmly maintain.'
“I strongly hope the parties to the dispute comply with the award and lead to a peaceful solution of the dispute in the South China Sea,” the Japanese Prime Minister told Japan’s Jiji Press.
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The international tribunal’s verdict is a win for Tokyo, as they are also involved in a separate territorial dispute with China.
Last Tuesday, July 12, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled that the “9-dash line” China claims sovereignty holds no legal basis. Beijing has maintained that most of the area in the South China Sea historically belonged to China, pointing to the 1940 maps which encompass the “9-dash line.”
Beijing rejected the ruling, claiming that the international tribunal had no jurisdiction on the matter. China vows to ignore the ruling, even objecting that the subject should not have been mentioned at the Asia-Europe Meeting.
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The EU on the other had supported the ruling of the PCA. The EU President Donald Tusk said that the union "will continue to speak out in support of upholding international law."
"It's not so easy to agree with our Chinese partners when it comes to this issue," Tusk added. "Our talks were difficult, tough, but also promising."
After the comments by Abe, a series of meetings followed between the Japanese Prime Minister, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay. Vietnam and the Philippines have competing claims with China over the South China Sea.
Manila, the claimant in the PCA case, vowed not to ‘taunt or flaunt’ the ruling.
Phuc, on the other hand, agreed with Prime Minister Abe that the ruling should be observed. In their meeting, Abe also proposed to increase assistance with Phuc to build Vietnam’s maritime capabilities.
Prime Minister Abe seeks to build a consensus on the issue, as tensions have been mounting over the China’s construction of artificial islands with the ability to support military operations in the disputed area. China even reiterated its Air Defense Identification Zone over the area, demanding that all civilian flights yield to the authority of its military.
The Japanese foreign minister spokesman Yasuhisa Kawamura told Agence France-Presse that Yasay agreed to ‘closely cooperate’ at the ASEAN-related conferences to guarantee that the ‘parties to the dispute comply with the final award of the tribunal.’
This comment came as the Southeast Asian group have yet to issue a statement on the verdict, allegedly due to the fact that some of the member states with close relations to China object to comment on the issue.
Abe also conveyed his argument directly to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang last Friday, July 15.
According to Kawamura, the discussion with the Beijing official was ‘frank and candid.’ But according to Chinese media accounts, Keqiang told Abe that Japan should ‘stop hyping up and interfering’ in the dispute.
With the summit’s official theme “Partnership for the Future through Connectivity,” the Chinese government sought to present its global initiatives, which include the One Belt and the One Road program, to build a network of infrastructure to connect the Eurasian region.
By the end of the ASEM summit, no official communique mentioned the South China sea. However, the conference ‘reaffirmed their commitment’ to abide by and resolve disputes according to the UN Convention on the Law of Sea. The leaders also sought to find peaceful solutions to maintain maritime security. - NB, Kami Media