China’s increasingly close relations with rivals in Southeast Asia put it in a position to disregard a harsh statement from a powerful group of foreign ministers this month, as well as other rebukes over its expansions in the South China Sea.
Beijing, which has expanded quickly into the vast, contested sea over the past decade, despite competing claims from smaller states, met fresh criticism from the Group of 7 foreign ministers in mid-April.
A G7 joint communique urged countries around the sea to use a world court arbitration ruling against China as a “useful basis” for settling disputes. A tribunal in The Hague ruled last year that Beijing lacked a legal basis for claims to more than 90 percent of the South China Sea, a resource-rich 3.5 million-square-kilometer tract also claimed by five other governments.
“At most (China) will just probably repeat what they’ve been saying about it — it’s a ruling that they don’t really recognize,” said Herman Kraft, political scientist at University of the Philippines Diliman. “I don’t think they’re really going to pay any attention to it that would significantly indicate any change in their position.
“Arguably (the communique) is just one of these statements coming from admittedly international organizations, but international organizations made up of countries that beyond talking about the issue and encouraging China to actually recognize and abide by the ruling, I don’t think they’re really going to do anything about it,” he said.