China says Laos supports it on South China Sea case

By Reuters/Ben Blanchard   July 15, 2016 | 08:40 am GMT+7
China says Laos supports it on South China Sea case
Protesters from a local pro-China party demonstrate against the United States supporting an international court ruling that denied China's claims to the South China Sea, outside U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, China July 14, 2016. Photo by Reuters/Bobby Yip

China has won the support of Laos in rejecting the outcome of The Hague court ruling against China's claims in the South China Sea (Vietnam's East Sea).

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled on Tuesday that China had no historic claim to the waters and it had violated the Philippines' economic and sovereign rights.

China rejected the ruling, having declined to participate in the case saying the court had no jurisdiction.

The subject was discussed on Thursday during a meeting between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith ahead a regional summit in Mongolia capital Ulaanbaatar.

"Li Keqiang expounded on China's principle and stance on the Philippines' South China Sea arbitration case," Xinhua said.

"Thongloun said that Laos supports China's position, and is willing to work with China to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea region."

The report did not elaborate.

Laos' foreign ministry has not responded to Reuters' request for comment on the ruling. Laos state media made no mention of the comments.

China and its land-locked neighbor Laos have increasingly close political and economic links.

Laos is the current chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and will be hosting a key security meeting in capital city Vientiane later this month at which the South China Sea is expected to dominate discussions.

china-says-laos-supports-it-on-south-china-sea-case

Laos' Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith inspects an honor guard with his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen (R) before a meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Phnom Penh, June 27, 2016. Photo by Reuters/Samrang Pring

China says it has widespread support for its rejection of the case but many countries have stuck to cautious comments calling for the peaceful resolution of disputes in the region and the need to follow international laws.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop angered Beijing with comments insisting the panel's ruling must be recognized and that it would continue to exercise its right to freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.

Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne on Friday defended Bishop's remarks and insisted she was expressing the majority opinion amongst observers that the court's ruling was legally binding.

"We call on the parties who are involved in that particular negotiation to abide by it," Payne said in an interview with ABC Radio on Friday morning. "We regard it as final."

Related news:

> ASEAN to keep mum on South China Sea ruling: diplomats

> Q&A on wider impacts of South China Sea ruling: What we should know so far

> Hague tribunal overwhelmingly rejects Beijing's South China Sea claims