ASEAN Summit

Premier Li on charm offensive as rivals protest Beijing’s aggression at sea

Chinese Premier Li Qiang attends the 26th ASEAN Plus Three (APT) Summit in Jakarta

In talks with Southeast Asian leaders yesterday in the Indonesian capital, Chinese Premier Li Qiang underscored his country’s importance as the world’s second-biggest economy and as the top trading partner of the region.

Countering renewed alarm over Beijing’s aggression in the disputed South China Sea, Li cited China’s long history of friendship with Southeast Asia, including joint efforts to confront the coronavirus pandemic and how both sides have settled differences through dialogue.

“As long as we keep to the right path, no matter what storm may come, China-ASEAN cooperation will be as firm as ever and press ahead against all odds,” Li said. “We have preserved peace and tranquility in East Asia in a world fraught with turbulence and change.”

But rival claimant states in the South China Sea, which belong to the 10-nation bloc of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, have protested China’s aggressive moves to fortify its vast territorial claims in the strategic sea passage. A new Chinese map set off a wave of protests from other countries’ leaders, who say it shows Beijing’s expansive claims encroaching into their coastal waters.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has expressed his alarm over recent combativeness in the disputed waters. In early August, a Chinese coast guard ship used a water cannon to try to block a Philippine navy-operated boat that was bringing supplies to Filipino forces in the disputed Second Thomas Shoal.

“We do not seek conflict, but it is our duty as citizens and as leaders to always rise to meet any challenge to our sovereignty, to our sovereign rights, and our maritime jurisdictions in the South China Sea,” Marcos told fellow leaders in an ASEAN-only meeting Tuesday.

A copy of Marcos’ remarks during ASEAN’s hourlong meeting with Qiang yesterday issued to journalists showed the Philippine president fired a veiled critique but did not raise any specific aggressions in the disputed sea.

The Philippines “continues to uphold the primacy of the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea as the framework within which all activities in the seas and oceans are conducted,” Marcos said in the meeting. “We once again reaffirm our commitment to the rule of law and peaceful settlement of disputes.”

In 2016, an arbitration tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, set up under that United Nations convention, ruled that China’s vast territorial claims in the South China Sea based on historical grounds have no legal basis.

China, a full dialogue partner of ASEAN, did not participate in the arbitration sought in 2013 by the Philippines, rejected the 2016 ruling, and continues to defy it.

China, Taiwan and some ASEAN member states — Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam — have been locked for decades in an increasingly tense territorial standoff in the South China Sea, where a bulk of global trade transits.

It’s also become a delicate frontline in the U.S.-China rivalry.

Washington does not lay any claim to the offshore region but has deployed its warships and fighters to undertake what it says are freedom of navigation and overflight patrols. China has warned the U.S. not to meddle in what it says is a purely Asian dispute. MDT/AP

Li urges Japan to handle nuclear-contaminated water responsibly

Chinese Premier Li Qiang clarified here yesterday China’s position on the issue of the discharge of nuclear-contaminated water from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, and called on Japan to handle the matter responsibly.

Addressing the 26th ASEAN Plus Three Summit, Li said the disposal of nuclear-contaminated water concerns the global marine ecological environment and people’s health.

He called on Japan to faithfully fulfill its international obligations, fully consult with its neighbors and related stakeholders, and handle the nuclear-contaminated water in a responsible manner. XINHUA

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