Saturday, 18 November, 2017

Trump offers to mediate in South China Sea dispute

Trump and Putin stand side by side for APEC family Trump offers to mediate in South China Sea dispute
Howard Terry | 15 November, 2017, 00:49

The South China Sea was discussed in Beijing on an earlier leg of Trump's 12-day Asian tour and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States and China had a frank exchange of views.

President Donald Trump on Sunday offered to mediate in the South China Sea disputes, while his Chinese counterpart played down concerns over Beijing's military buildup and the prospects of war in the contested waters.

In August, ASEAN and China approved a framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea. "I mean we have only four Asean countries who are claimants -Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia", Manila Times quoted Minh, as saying.

Xinhua news agency reported that the Chinese and Vietnamese sides "reached an important consensus in accordance with leaders of the two parties and countries, to appropriately manage maritime issues, steadily advance all forms of maritime cooperation including joint development and jointly strive to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea".

The DOC of Parties in the South China Sea, a non-legally binding document signed on November 4, 2002 but has been mostly ignored by claimant states, seeks to exercise self-restraint and prevent militarization within the contested waters.

"I'm a very good mediator and arbitrator", Trump said Sunday at a news conference with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, before flying to Manila for the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

China in recent years has built artificial islands and increased its militarisation in the waters, drawing criticism from Washington, which argues that the United States has a national interest in freedom of navigation in sea lanes critical for world trade.

"He is the master of the art of the deal but, of course, the claimant countries have to answer as a group or individually. mediation involves all the claimants and non-claimants", Philippine foreign secretary Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters.

But the Philippines, after President Rodrigo Duterte took office previous year, decided not to use the ruling to pressure China.

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.

According to the global tribunal in The Hague, China's historical claims have no legal basis, and some of the features it is claiming fall within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

He said wrapping up negotiations on the code will prove Asean and China's commitment to resolve overlapping claims in the disputed waters. So we welcome that offer, let's see how everyone's response.

The Chinese leader, however, would not back down on Beijing's territorial claim, Mr Duterte said.

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