South China Sea dispute

Chinese premier tells Abe to stop meddling

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (in blue) gesturing between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (left) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as they posed with other heads of delegations for a group photo during the Asia-Europe Meeting in Ulaanbaatar, Mongol
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (in blue) gesturing between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (left) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as they posed with other heads of delegations for a group photo during the Asia-Europe Meeting in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

ULAANBAATAR • Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday that his country should stop interfering and hyping up the South China Sea issue, as the dispute took centre stage at a key regional summit in Mongolia.

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

Meeting in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar, Premier Li told Mr Abe that China's stance on the South China Sea was completely in line with international law, state news agency Xinhua reported.

"Japan is not a state directly involved in the South China Sea issue, and thus should exercise caution in its own words and deeds, and stop hyping up and interfering," Mr Li said, according to Xinhua.

Japan's Kyodo news agency said Mr Abe had told Mr Li that a rules-based international order must be respected.

The agency also said that Mr Abe and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc had agreed that the ruling must be observed.

Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Yasuhisa Kawamura said Mr Abe "reiterated the fundamental positions regarding the South China Sea" in his meeting with Mr Li.

"The situation of the South China Sea is the concern of the international community. The tribunal award of 12 July is final and legally binding on the parties to the dispute," Mr Kawamura told reporters.

China's Foreign Ministry yesterday said Beijing's position on the case had the support of Laos, the current chair of Asean, a regional bloc long dogged by discord over how to deal with China's maritime assertiveness.

Laos' foreign ministry did not respond to Reuters' request for comment.

Land-locked Laos, which is boosting economic ties with China, will be hosting a security meeting later this month at which the South China Sea issue is expected to dominate. Asean has not issued a statement about the ruling and its members have not said why.

China's Foreign Ministry later said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had told Mr Li that Cambodia would uphold a "fair and objective stance" on the issue and work to maintain friendly China-Asean relations.

Asked about Cambodia's position, Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn told Reuters: "We are not involved in this arbitration case and just wish to stand by our policy of neutrality."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 16, 2016, with the headline 'Chinese premier tells Abe to stop meddling'. Print Edition | Subscribe