There is no mention of the South China Sea dispute in any discussion or agenda during this year’s Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. China has made it clear it will refuse to discuss it.
Twenty-three countries in total came together for this year’s summit. They included China, Japan, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Russia, Latvia, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Russia, Cyprus, Switzerland Croatia, Bulgaria and the Netherlands. Overall, there were 11 heads of state, 13 foreign ministers, three special envoys and two heads of international organizations present for the two-day event marked with a number of bilateral meeting. Throughout these, nobody uttered a word with regards to South China Sea.
The Arbitration Court at The Hague recently handed down its ruling in the South China Sea dispute between China and the Philippines, and it had ruled in favor of the latter. The tribunal also said that China’s historical claims to the area has no merit, which may further invalidate claims when it comes to its similar disputes in the region with Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.
In response to the ruling, the U.S. said that while it is not commenting directly on the dispute, it supports the rule of law. Ahead of the ASEM summit, a report from Reuters reveals China had said the South China Sea dispute cannot be discussed during the summit in Mongolia. Moreover, Chinese officials who participated in the meeting also refused to speak to reporters during the summit.
Meanwhile, as part of the summit’s Ulaanbaatar Declaration, heads of state and government from ASEM partner countries have reportedly agreed to “ensure the continuity of initiatives” when it comes to areas of common interests. Among these include maritime safety and security.
At the same time, China’s Foreign Ministry refused to comment on the summit and its decision not to discuss the South China Sea during the meetings.