Li wins backing over South China Sea at ASEM Summit

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Beijing—Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s effort to promote China’s stance on the South China Sea issue received broad support during the 11th Asian-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit.
Li said Saturday before he returned to China that the South China Sea arbitration award will have no impact on China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime interests.
Speaking in an informal meeting during the summit, Li said the South China Sea issue should not be subject to multilateral discussions from the very beginning, or be included in the summit’s agenda.
“But since certain countries commented on the issue, it is thus necessary for China to come out to clarify its stance and spell out the truth,” he said.
Li said China has never participated in the arbitration unilaterally initiated by the Philippines, adding that his country neither accepts nor acknowledges the so-called arbitration award.
“By doing so, we are both exercising our rights in accordance with international law, and safeguarding the dignity of international law,” he said.
“Under no circumstance will the arbitration award exert any impact on China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea,” Li added.
The Chinese premier said China remains committed to settling the South China Sea disputes via dialogue and consultation with countries directly involved on the basis of historical facts and in accordance with international law, so as to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea.
This is the first time the Chinese premier has made an open statement on the South China Sea issue at an international forum following the South China Sea arbitration award issued Tuesday.
Li did not include the issue in his keynote speech at the start of the two-day summit. However, faced with certain nations’ attempts to stir up tension and interfere in the South China Sea issue in the summit, Li expounded China’s stance of non-acceptance of and non-participation in the arbitration proceedings, as part of his diplomatic offensive.
In a meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc Thursday, Li said the South China Sea issue should be solved through bilateral negotiations between relevant parties in line with historical facts, international law and the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).
One day later, he told Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen that China will work with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to protect regional peace and stability as well as the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
Li’s toughest remarks were directed at Japan, which, according to a Chinese diplomat that demanded anonymity, had sought in vain to include the arbitration case into the chair’s statement of the summit.
Tokyo, not a state directly involved in the South China Sea issue, should thus stop hyping up and interfering in the South China Sea issue and “exercise caution in its own words and deeds,” Li told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a Friday meeting at the latter’s request. China’s stance on the issue is completely in line with international law and the DOC, Li said.
The Chinese premier’s statements have been keenly received and won the backing from a number of Asian and European heavyweight leaders. In the meeting with Li, Vietnam’s Nguyen Xuan Phuc said his nation respects China’s stance on the arbitration, adding that the disputes should be solved peacefully through negotiations. Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith said on the same day that Laos supports China’s stance over the South China Sea issue, and stands ready to work with China to maintain peace and stability in the region.—Xinhua.

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