Donald Trump offers to mediate in protracted South China Sea feud

Frederick Owens
November 15, 2017

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.

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

Vietnam has long courted support from Washington in its dispute with China over the precious waterway where Beijing has built military installations and artificial islands.

China will firmly safeguard freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, Premier Li Keqiang said on Tuesday at a regional summit in Manila, state news agency Xinhua reported.

The draft framework was drawn up in May at the 14th Senior Officials' Meeting on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in Guizhou, China.

Trump told Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang that he was prepared to mediate between claimants to the South China Sea and said China's position was a problem.

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

Trump was in Manila on Monday for meetings with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and several other countries.

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Asked about Trump's offer, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Monday that China remained committed to "solving the relevant disputes through dialogue and consultation with the countries directly concerned and maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea".

"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.

In a joint statement, Asean and China agreed to "intensify cooperation and assistance to combat corruption", as part of efforts to enhance regional cooperation under the Asean-China Strategic Partnership.

Since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has grown closer to China, Vietnam has emerged as China's main challenger in the area.

"I know we've had a dispute for quite a while with China".

In 2013, the Philippines filed an global arbitration case against China, and scored victory three years later. "They will not talk about it", Duterte said of China.

"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. He has refused to immediately take up with China a ruling by a United Nations -linked tribunal that invalidated Beijing's sprawling claims in the South China Sea, sparking criticism from nationalists and left-wing groups that wanted him to demand Chinese compliance with the landmark decision immediately.

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