Xi tells Duterte China will work to safeguard South China Sea peace

Frederick Owens
November 13, 2017

"If I can help mediate or arbitrate, please let me know", Trump said at a meeting in Hanoi with his Vietnamese counterpart, Tran Dai Quang. "I'm a very good mediator and arbitrator".

"I am looking forward to start in positive note with tonight's celebration of 50 years of ASEAN", said Duterte in his remarks at the dinner.

"If you do not like me, I do not like you".

U.S. Navy ships have also carried out freedom of navigation patrols in the area, angering China.

China is claimant to swathes of ocean, extending far outside its internationally agreed 200-mile economic exclusion zone (EEZ).

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. Trump has previously praised Duterte's handling of his nation's drug problems.

Amy Searight, senior adviser of the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told reporters before the trip that she expects Duterte to roll out the red carpet for Trump because he "sees this as an opportunity to somewhat reset US-Philippine relations".

Duterte said earlier in the week that he planned to ask China to make clear its intentions in the South China Sea. He had bilateral meetings with Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. He added that the two need to "jointly uphold peace and stability" in the region.

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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 USA warships and aircraft to stay away from them.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have conflicting claims there.

His final stop is the Philippines.

He said that Trump and Xi had discussed ways to "prevent mishaps, misunderstandings and miscalculations" in the vital seaway.

The United States has criticized China's construction of islands and its build-up of military facilities in the sea, and is concerned they could be used to restrict free nautical movement.

Since Trump took office, priorities in the region lie elsewhere, with U.S. focus largely on containing the North Korean threat.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who plays host to world leaders from Sunday, has said repeatedly in recent months he has never incited his police or vigilantes to kill illegally.

In August, foreign ministers of Southeast Asia and China adopted a negotiating framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea, a move they hailed as progress but one seen by critics as a tactic to buy China time to consolidate its power.

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