President Barack Obama raised the South China Sea dispute at last week’s regional summit of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Laos.
”We will continue to work to ensure that disputes are resolved peacefully, including in the South China Sea,” Obama said at the summit. He said the July 12 ruling by the panel in the Hague was binding and ”helped to clarify maritime rights in the region.” China shot back with comments aimed at the United States.
”A couple of extra-regional countries still wanted to use the occasion of the East Asia Summit to talk about the South China Sea, particularly to press on the regional countries to abide by the arbitration, which is untimely and inappropriate,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told reporters.
In a victory for Beijing’s diplomatic, economic and military clout, ASEAN couldn’t even get all of its 10 members to agree that China was responsible for building islands in the disputed and resource-rich sea.
A statement issued at the end of the summit said: ”We remain seriously concerned over recent and ongoing developments” in the South China Sea, without elaborating. It did not mention China by name and made only a passing reference to Beijing’s program of building man-made islands in the area by piling sand atop coral reefs.