Southeast Asian leaders are set to avoid references to a recent arbitration ruling that undermined China’s claims to the South China Sea, after omitting it from a joint statement at a summit this week over which Beijing’s influence looms large.
A draft communique of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) seen by Reuters on Monday listed eight points related to the South China Sea, but made no mention of a high-profile July ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which invalidated Beijing’s territorial claims.
The decision to exclude reference to the ruling represents a diplomatic victory for China, following ASEAN’s decision at its last meeting in July to turn down a U.S.-backed proposal to include the landmark ruling in the text.
China refuses to recognize the case brought by the Philippines in 2013. Its outrage over the verdict has created regional concerns that Beijing might take a tougher line in future disputes.