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Trump Offers To Mediate in South China Sea Dispute
13 November 2017, 07:47 | Opal Carroll
Xi tells Duterte China will work to safeguard South China Sea peace
US President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he was prepared to mediate between claimants to the South China Sea, which include China and Vietnam.
India has been supporting freedom of navigation and access to resources in the South China Sea in accordance with principles of global law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The Philippines had been the most vigorous critic of Chinese territorial claims, but Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has recently dialed back his country's objections, leaving Vietnam as the leading critic.
Ahead of the annual summit of the ASEAN, an influential grouping of 10 South East Asian countries, a number of diplomats said the thorny issue of China's aggressive military buildup in the South China Sea may be one of the focus areas of the deliberations on Tuesday.
In the past, Duterte has repeatedly said he will raise the sea dispute at the proper time and avoided the issue when Manila hosted two regional meetings this year.
Speaking to his Vietnamese counterpart, Tran Dai Quang in Hanoi, Trump said he could employ his diplomatic skills to help Asian nations come to an agreement over competing maritime claims.
"Unbridled, undisturbed, unmolested while we use that small way from the Indian Ocean. facing Palawan", Duterte said, referencing the southern Philippines province which juts out into the South China Sea.
Unlike China, the United States is not a claimant to the potentially oil-rich and busy waters, but it has declared it has a national interest in ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight and the peaceful resolution of the disputes.
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Southeast Asian nations will not take a relative calm in the dispute over the South China Sea for granted, according to a draft of a statement to be issued during a summit meeting in Manila on Monday.
The US president added that North Korea "continues to be a problem" and said he was hopeful that Chinese President Xi Jinping would "be a tremendous help".
"He acknowledged that war can not be promoted by anybody, (that) it would only mean destruction for all of us", Duterte told reporters after flying back to Manila.
"He knows that if he goes to war, everything will blow up".
China has dismissed that ruling as a "sham" and did not participate in the arbitration case that the Philippines filed during the administration of Duterte's predecessor.
Meanwhile, late Sunday after the glitzy gala dinner, President Duterte discussed the maritime dispute over the South China Sea during his bilateral talks with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said last week that the dispute over a string of sandbars called Sandy Cay emerged in August and prompted China and the Philippines to consider negotiating some sort of protocol or arrangement to allow both sides to prevent such incidents from spiraling out of control. But economic prospects compel both sides to resolve their differences.
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.
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