Published: Wed, November 15, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Trump offers to 'mediate' in sea dispute

Trump offers to 'mediate' in sea dispute

China's agreement to begin talks with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the fine print of a code of conduct framework for the disputed South China Sea will help to stabilise the region, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said. Non-claimants to the issue, such as the United States, stress the necessity for freedom of navigation in the area.

"We have to be friends, the other hotheads would like us to confront China and the rest of the world on so many issues", Duterte said at a business conference. Several nations back an active American military presence in the region to serve as a counterweight to China's increasingly assertive actions, including the construction of seven man-made islands equipped with military installations.

China claims almost all of South China Sea, while Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines also claim parts of the strategic waters.

Trump's comments come ahead of a state visit yesterday afternoon by Chinese President Xi Jinping who will meet with top communist leaders.

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President Duterte had, on Sunday, said the territorial dispute was "better left untouched", in his speech at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit.

"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.

The disputed waters were among the issues discussed during the 20th ASEAN-China Summit, which is part of the 31st ASEAN summit and related summits chaired by the Philippines this year. Duterte took steps to thaw frosty relations with China after he won the presidency past year. "So if I can help you, let me know".

Vietnam has become the most vocal opponent of China's moves after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte softened his country's stance on China.

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Asean and China also highlighted the role of witnesses in identifying and prosecuting corruptors and said they would develop "an effective protection system for witnesses in corruption cases, where appropriate".

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. The dispute centers around the Spratly and Paracel Islands.

"While the situation is calmer now, we can not take the current progress for granted", said the draft, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

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