China seeks global support for South China Sea policies


BEIJING (AP) — China is seeing mixed results in its effort to enlist friendly states in its push to exclude the U.S. and its allies from the festering South China Sea dispute, underscoring the limits of Chinese diplomacy despite its massive economic clout.
Beijing won a major endorsement for its position with remarks by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last month that players from outside the region should not get involved.
However, its recent announcement of added support from Brunei, Laos and Cambodia drew unusually strong criticism from senior Singaporean diplomat Ong Keng Yong, who said Beijing may be trying to split the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the regional bloc to which all four nations belong. China’s announcement was even questioned by Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan, who said no new agreement with China had been reached.

Ouyang Yujing, Director-General of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, speaks during a press briefing about China’s South China Sea policies in Beijing, Friday, May 6, 2016. China is rallying Russia and other friendly states to back a push to exclude the U.S. and its allies from the festering South China Sea dispute, despite its insistence that countries without a direct territorial claim should remain firmly neutral. The words, above, mean “Chinese and foreign media briefing.” (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Despite the blow-back, China has noted recent statements that “show that the international community has come to understand and support the Chinese government’s position on handling the South China Sea issue and the arbitration case brought by the Philippine side,” Ouyang Yujing, the head of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs, told reporters Friday.
Ouyang was referring to a case challenging China’s South China Sea territorial claims brought by fellow claimant the Philippines before the United Nations Court of Arbitration in 2013. China has refused to join in the legal process and says it won’t accept the court’s ruling, expected within weeks.
Beijing’s approach displays its craving for international respect and desire to avoid isolation over the issue, and provides “an iota of self-satisfaction,” said Yu Maochun, an expert on Chinese politics at the U.S. Naval Academy.
Russia’s support is particularly significant, both for China and the world at large, because of the growing appearance of an anti-U.S. and anti-Western united front, Yu said.
“This breeds a great potential danger of the world skidding to a formation of big power alliances of opposition, whereby China and Russia act together against a US.-led coalition of democracies,” Yu said.

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