China's repudiation of a UN court's ruling its "nine-dash line" claim is illegal, which is also seen as an assault on the rules-based international order, will subject Beijing to global criticism for its intransigence from nations led by the European Union and the United States at the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) opening today, July 15, in Mongolia.
The South China Sea ruling last July 12 by the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration is expected to feature prominently at ASEM despite China's efforts to exclude it, saying ASEM isn't the channel for discussing this issue.
ASEM is the first major international gathering since the arbitration court sided with the Philippines, dealing a heavy blow to Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea.
The Philippines, however, will talk about the arbitration court's ruling, making it impossible for China to dodge discussions about the issue. It has urged China to respect the ruling.
Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Perfecto Yasay will discuss within the context of ASEM's agenda the Philippines peaceful and rules-based approach on the South China Sea and the need for parties to respect the recent decision of the Arbitral Tribunal.
Yasay will also hold bilateral meetings with his counterparts on matters affecting bilateral relations and common concerns on global and regional issues. He will also share President Rodrigo Duterte's priorities and key socio-economic policies in ASEM.
"Refusing to have a meaningful discussion on the issue will only solidify the growing image of China's intransigence and high-handed diplomacy," said Tang Siew Mun, head of the ASEAN Studies Center at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.
"Much to Beijing's displeasure the South China Sea issue will find its way into the region's major discussions and summits."
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan is also expected to call for the arbitration tribunal's decision to be respected.
"I'll underscore the importance of the rule of law and peaceful resolution (of the issue)," said Abe.
ASEM is an informal dialogue involving 51 countries from Asia and Europe and the ASEAN Secretariat and the EU. ASEM dialogue addresses political, economic and socio-cultural issues. It aims to strengthen the relationship between Asia and Europe.
No other nation apart from Beijing's clients states in Asia and Africa numbering less than a dozen have taken to condemning the ruling. Even Russia has refused to back Beijing and has instead called on China to craft a code of conduct for the South China Sea, a code Beijing has refused to talk about for years.