China premier says will protect South China Sea freedom of navigation

15 November, 2017, 01:56 | Author: Chad Mckenzie
  • It will be the first meeting between the two leaders following a proposal to have a quadrilateral alliance among India the US Japan and Australia

ASEAN member states leaders of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam are in Manila to attend the summit.

Vietnam and China, along with four other governments, claim all or parts of the South China Sea, which is believed to sit atop rich natural resources and occupies one of the world's busiest sea lanes.

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.

"We are committed to working with Asean, to be good neighbors, good friends, and good partners that always stand together, rain or shine", Li said in his keynote speech.

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Trump and Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang issued a joint statement calling for the "full and effective implementation" of the declaration on the conduct of parties in the South China Sea, and for all claimants to clarify their maritime claims. 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.

Chinese President Xi Jinping returned to Beijing on Tuesday evening after paying state visits to Vietnam and Laos.

"He acknowledged that war can not be promoted by anybody, (that) it would only mean destruction for all of us", Duterte said in a news conference after flying back to Manila.

Xi spoke about the territorial rifts ahead of the ASEAN summit in the Philippines, which also includes the U.S., China and other global players.

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Philippines President Duterte recommended avoiding confrontation and leaving the situation in the disputed South China Sea "untouched".

"If you go to the negotiating table and you start with the statement that I am here to claim validity of our ownership, you're wasting your time".

While Li did not give a timeframe, Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte, who was chairing the regional summit, said China was being pressed to set a specific date and that Beijing responded it would "consider really fast-trackking" the code of conduct.

"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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Duterte has courted Chinese trade and assistance and taken a non-confrontational approach to their territorial disputes. The US and Chinese militaries have had frequent standoffs in the area, with Beijing accusing the US of damaging China's sovereignty and security interests.

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