Published: Mon, November 13, 2017
Global | By Maureen Mccoy

Thorny South China Sea issue may dominate ASEAN summit

Thorny South China Sea issue may dominate ASEAN summit

Trump had told reporters on Air Force One Saturday that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin "means it" when he says he didn't meddle in the election.

While China is frustrated with the intractable nuclear standoff, the U.S. focus on it does afford China "a lot of strategic opportunities", Harry Kazianis, director of Defense Studies at the Center for the National Interest told CNN ahead of Trump's Asia trip.

The two met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the Vietnamese resort city of Danang.

"The South China Sea is better left untouched, nobody can afford to go to war", the Philippines strongman said.

"I believe in our intel agencies", he said, alongside Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang. "What the hell? For me, they can add to that, make it 50,000".

The controversial issue was also understood to have figured in a meeting of officials from India, the US, Japan, and Australia under the proposed Quadrilateral coalition of the four countries.

Mr Trump arrived in Hanoi to begin meetings, before flying to the Philippines to begin the ASEAN meeting and East Asia Summit.

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The Trump administration has avoid criticizing Duterte's drug war, even going so far to praise his efforts.

Duterte also said he "might" raise the issue of the South China Sea dispute with Trump, alongside trade, Islamic extremism and terrorism, according to a statement.

Tensions in the contested waters have ratcheted up since 2014 as China has turned sandbars into islands, equipping them with airfields, ports and weapons systems and warned United States warships and aircraft to stay away from them.

The framework seeks to advance a 2002 Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea, which has mostly been ignored by claimant states, particularly China, which has built seven man-made islands in disputed waters, three of them equipped with runways, surface-to-air missiles and radars.

Trump headed to Manila later yesterday for the final stop on his marathon Asia tour that has mainly focused on building regional consensus against North Korea's nuclear ambitions and espousing his "America First" vision of global trade.

"China is to work with ASEAN countries to maintain peace and stability, as well as development and prosperity in the South China Sea region", Xi Jinping said at the leaders' meeting on Sunday.

India has been supporting freedom of navigation and access to resources in the South China Sea in accordance with principles of worldwide law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

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