Posts Tagged ‘Association of Southeast Asian Nations’

South China Sea: China continues “assertive initiatives”

December 8, 2017

December 07, 2017 08:13

VOA

Beijing’s new move to assert air control over the disputed South China Sea risks alarming countries that had agreed last month to work out differences diplomatically.

State-run China Central Television and one English-language news outlet said last week the military had deployed domestically built J-11B jet fighters to Woody Island in the Paracel archipelago.

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Hangars in the island chain would improve China’s overall control of the sea, the television network said, quoting a Chinese military expert. The country eventually could intercept foreign aircraft, it said.

Five other governments, all militarily weaker than China, contest Beijing’s claims to about 90 percent of the 3.5 million-sq.km sea that’s prized for fisheries, marine shipping lanes and undersea fossil fuel reserves.

China’s aircraft deployment will raise alerts among the other claimants as well as the United States, which has more fire power than China and insists the sea remain open to all, analysts believe.

But China and Southeast Asian states, which are used to Chinese maritime maneuvers and recipients of Chinese economic support, are expected to remain friendly.

Artilleries are fired during a military drill in Qingtongxia, Ningxia Autonomous Region, China on Sept. 25, 2017. /Reuters

In November China agreed to negotiate with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on a code to prevent accidents at sea by 2018. An official from Beijing said then that China would ensure freedom of navigation for the Southeast Asian states.

China probably intends to stick to both pledges, analysts say. Beijing is mixing “friendly gestures” with “assertive initiatives,” said Fabrizio Bozzato, a Taiwan Strategy Research Association fellow who follows Southeast Asia.

“At the end of the day, their South China Sea policy remains unchanged,” Bozzato said. “They regard the South China Sea as Chinese waters. It seems to me they have a clear intention to make the South China Sea or most of it Chinese waters by what we could say 2030.”

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam assert sovereignty over parts of the same sea, overlapping China’s claims. Taiwan also claims the whole sea.

Since 2010 China has angered its neighbors by using landfill to build up islets and installing other military hardware to bolster control. But to reinforce friendships, China has helped the Philippines develop infrastructure since the two sides became friendlier last year, pumped up tourism to Vietnam and invested heavily in Brunei and Malaysia.

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

 

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Canada’s Trudeau airs concern on Philippine killings

November 14, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tackled Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte over allegations of extrajudicial killings in Manila’s deadly drug war
MANILA (AFP) – Justin Trudeau tackled Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte over allegations of extrajudicial killings in Manila’s deadly drug war, he said on Tuesday.

The Canadian prime minister’s comments came the day after US President Donald Trump hailed the “great relationship” he enjoys with Duterte in a meeting the Philippines government said did not touch on human rights.

“I also mentioned human rights, the rule of law, and specifically extrajudicial killings as being an issue that Canada is concerned with,” Trudeau told reporters in Manila, recounting a conversation with Duterte.

“I impressed upon him the need for respect for the rule of law.”

Ahead of a regional summit in the Philippines, rights groups had urged world leaders to challenge Duterte over what they say are gross abuses.

The 72-year-old overwhelmingly won elections last year vowing to eradicate drugs through a campaign that would see up to 100,000 people killed.

Since he took office, police have reported killing 3,967 people in the crackdown.

Another 2,290 people have been murdered in drug-related crimes, while thousands of other deaths remain unsolved, according to government data.

Rights groups say Duterte may be presiding over a crime against humanity.

On Tuesday, Trudeau said Canada had earned a reputation for discussing human rights and the rule of law with other nations.

Asked how Duterte responded, Trudeau said: “The president was receptive to my comments and it was throughout a very cordial and positive exchange.”

“This is something that is important to Canadians, and it’s important to the world and I will always bring that up,” Trudeau said, referring to human rights.

The Canadian prime minister added he offered support to Duterte “as a friend to help move forward on what is a real challenge”.

Duterte is hosting world leaders as the Philippines holds the rotating chair of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc.

Trudeau’s comments were a rare sour note for Duterte during a summit that has been largely silent on the issue.

Trump garnered headlines on Monday for his show of camaraderie with Duterte, a man who last week boasted of having personally stabbed someone to death as a teenager.

A Philippine presidential spokesman repeatedly insisted Monday that human rights had not come up during their summit talks, although the White House said they had done so “briefly”.

In Vietnam, Trump offers to mediate on South China Sea

November 12, 2017

Reuters

HANOI (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday he was prepared to mediate between claimants to the South China Sea, where five countries contest China’s sweeping claims to the busy waterway.

Trump was speaking in Vietnam, which has become the most vocal opponent of China’s claims and its construction and militarization of artificial islands in the sea. About $3-trillion in goods passes through the sea each year.

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U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang, right, attend the welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. (Kham/Pool Photo via AP) The Associated Press

“If I can help mediate or arbitrate, please let me know,” Trump said in comments at a meeting in Hanoi with Vietnam’s president, Tran Dai Quang.

Trump acknowledged that China’s position on the South China Sea was a problem.

“I‘m a very good mediator and arbitrator,” he said.

President Quang said Vietnam believed in handling disputes on the South China Sea through peaceful negotiations and on the basis of international laws – which Vietnam says nullify China’s claims.

Vietnam has reclaimed land around reefs and islets, but on nowhere near the same scale as China. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan also have claims in the sea.

Since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has grown closer to China, Vietnam has emerged as China’s main challenger in the region. In July, China pressured Vietnam to stop oil drilling in a disputed area, taking relations to a low.

Relations have since improved and Chinese President Xi Jinping is visiting Hanoi later on Sunday.

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.

Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang and U.S. President Donald Trump prepare to address a joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The United States has angered China with freedom of navigation patrols close to Chinese-controlled islands.

CODE OF CONDUCT

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.

The framework seeks to advance a 2002 Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea, which has mostly been ignored by claimant states, particularly China, which has built seven man-made islands in disputed waters, three of them equipped with runways, surface-to-air missiles and radars.

All parties say the framework is only an outline for how the code will be established and critics raise doubts about how effective the pact will be.

The framework will be endorsed by China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at a summit in Manila on Monday, a diplomat from one of the regional bloc’s countries said.

The next step is for ASEAN and China to start formal consultations and negotiations for the actual Code of Conduct, and the earliest that talks on this can start is February 2018, the diplomat said.

From Vietnam, Trump flies to the Philippines for a meeting with ASEAN leaders before he heads back to Washington.

Relations between Vietnam and the United States have blossomed in the decades since their war ended in 1975. A recent survey put the favorability of the United States at 84 percent among Vietnamese.

But Vietnam’s trade surplus remains an irritant for the Trump administration. At $32 billion last year, it was the sixth largest with the United States, though less than a tenth the size of China‘s.

“We want to get that straightened out very quickly,” Trump said at a meeting with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Vietnam, in a Bind, Tries to Chart a Path Between U.S. and China

November 11, 2017

HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam’s full-on war with the United States lasted a decade. Its tensions with its northern neighbor, China, have persisted for thousands of years — from a millennium of direct Chinese rule and a bloody border war in 1979 to more recent confrontations in the South China Sea.

If geography is destiny, then the fate of Vietnam is to be an expert in bargaining with Beijing and balancing between superpowers.

So with the rest of the world struggling to reckon with China’s assertive moves in the Pacific, the Vietnamese, hosts of this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, are offering guidance.

“I would like to give advice to the whole world, and especially to the United States, that you must be careful with China,” said Maj. Gen. Le Van Cuong, the retired director of the Institute of Strategic Studies at the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security.

Like any good Communist soldier, General Cuong pays attention to the details of leaders’ abstruse speeches, and he noted that President Xi Jinping of China had referred to his homeland’s status as a “great” or “strong power” 26 times in a lengthy address last month.

“Xi Jinping’s ambitions are dangerous for the whole world,” General Cuong said. “China uses its money to buy off many leaders, but none of the countries that are its close allies, like North Korea, Pakistan or Cambodia, have done well. Countries that are close to America have done much better. We must ask: Why is this?”

As with other Southeast Asian nations acutely aware that they are positioned in China’s backyard, Vietnam is worried about American inattention.

In the name of halting Communism, the United States once sent troops to Indochina and propped up dictators elsewhere in Asia. But the American-devised security landscape also created a stable environment in which regional economies expanded.

A furniture factory in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. “As Vietnamese, we are always trying to find a way to balance China’s power,” said Nguyen Ngoc Anh, a professor at the Foreign Trade University in Hanoi. Credit Christian Berg for The New York Times

Now, Mr. Trump’s decision to take the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, which would have given 11 other economies an alternative to a Chinese-led economic order, has left the Vietnamese feeling vulnerable.

“As Vietnamese, we are always trying to find a way to balance China’s power,” said Nguyen Ngoc Anh, a professor at the Foreign Trade University in Hanoi. “For us, TPP isn’t just an economic issue. It’s also about geopolitics and social issues.”

Ms. Anh noted that local liberals had cheered the trade pact because it would have forced Vietnam to adhere to international labor and government accountability standards that Hanoi might otherwise not meet.

With the 11 other members of the pact still hashing out if they can proceed without the United States, Washington’s withdrawal — not to mention Mr. Trump’s “America First” speech at the APEC meeting on Friday — leaves some nations wondering if their best option may be Chinese-backed trade pacts and financing deals that have fewer guarantees for workers and less official transparency.

“We are both Communist countries, but people like me in Vietnam don’t want to develop the same way that China has,” said Ms. Anh, who studied economics in Soviet-era Czechoslovakia. “We want to follow the Western-oriented way.”

While the United States is the largest market for Vietnamese exports, Vietnam’s biggest trading partner is China. Yet Vietnam runs a significant trade deficit with its populous neighbor, and Vietnamese economists worry that China doesn’t play fairly.

“China is one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t observe international law in many areas,” said Le Dang Doanh, an influential economist who has advised members of the Vietnamese Politburo on trade.

The Vietnamese watched in alarm last year when Beijing reacted to an international tribunal’s dismissal of China’s expansive claims over the South China Sea by ignoring — and even mocking — the judgment. Vietnam and four other governments have claims of their own on the resource-rich waterway that conflict with China’s.

It is hard to overstate the level of Vietnamese antipathy toward China. In a country where public protest is rare and risky, some of the few large-scale demonstrations in Vietnam in recent years have been against the Chinese.

But this national aversion puts Vietnam’s leadership in a bind. It cannot ignore China’s growing economic magnetism. For many members of APEC, China now ranks as their No. 1 trading partner.

In return for investment and project financing — roads, railways, dams, airports and colossal government buildings — leaders of regional economies are increasingly doing Beijing’s bidding.

Cambodia and Laos have given crucial support for Beijing’s South China Sea claims. Thailand has complied with Beijing’s demand that it return Chinese dissidents who once counted on it as a haven.

Even the Philippines has appeared to yield, despite the fact it lodged the successful South China Sea suit at The Hague. Days before Mr. Trump’s visit to Manila this Sunday, it disclosed that President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered construction halted on a disputed sandbar in the South China Sea, a move widely regarded as intended to placate Beijing.

Since taking office last year, Mr. Duterte has deemed the era of American military and economic pre-eminence over, and has called China his country’s best and faithful friend. He has been rewarded with billions of dollars in infrastructure investment from Beijing.

“The U.S. has been playing catch-up to China’s charm offensive since the turn of the new century,” said Tang Siew Mun, who heads the Southeast Asia center at the Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute, a think tank in Singapore.

Vietnam, more than any other country, has grown practiced at divining when not to challenge the two Pacific powers — both of which it fought within the last half-century.

People exchanging Vietnamese dong and Chinese renminbi near Vietnam’s border with China. While the United States is the largest market for Vietnamese exports, Vietnam’s biggest trading partner is China. Credit Linh Pham/Getty Images

In the 1970s and 1980s, China seized spits of land in the South China Sea that Vietnam had controlled or that were unoccupied but claimed by Hanoi.

Yet perhaps sensing an American reluctance to confront China in the South China Sea, Vietnam has declined to take China to international court, as the Philippines did, even as the Chinese have turned disputed reefs and sandbars into militarized islands.

Chinese pressure continues, despite the United States’ supplying the Vietnamese Coast Guard with a cutter and new patrol boats.

This year, a Spanish company with prospecting rights from Vietnam suspended drilling in an oil block off the coast of Vietnam. Beijing claims part of the waters as its own.

In 2014, the Chinese parked a state-owned oil rig off Danang, where Mr. Trump attended the APEC summit meeting on Friday, in a forceful incursion into what Hanoi considers its territorial waters.

“Living next to China, which has ambitions to become the most powerful country in the world, is not easy,” said Vo Van Tao, a popular political blogger. “To lower the heat, Vietnam needs to withdraw from areas that belong to Vietnam.”

Grand strategy is beyond the worldview of Vietnamese like Do Van Duc. In 1979, he was stationed on the border with China, as part of an antiaircraft artillery unit, when hundreds of thousands of People’s Liberation Army soldiers from China flooded south.

The Vietnamese, while outmanned, put up an unexpectedly robust defense. Within a month, the Chinese, professing that they had taught the Vietnamese a lesson for interfering in regional geopolitics, withdrew.

During the war with China, Mr. Duc was only 17 years old, but he came to understand one thing then that today, as a security guard living in Hanoi, he said he still clings to.

“We cannot trust the Chinese,” he said. “They are our ancient enemy, and that will not change.”

Xi Jinping calls on China, Vietnam to work together to settle South China Sea disputes — After Donald Trump pulls out

November 11, 2017

Parties must ‘stay committed to seeking a fundamental and durable solution’ to their claims, Chinese president says ahead of Apec summit in Vietnam

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 November, 2017, 10:25am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 November, 2017, 9:45pm

Xi called on the two nations to work closely to resolve their maritime disputes, before landing in Da Nang for this weekend’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit at which Xi and US President Donald Trump are expected to vie for regional influence.

Xi and Trump will also visit Hanoi after the summit.

In an article published in Nhan Dan, the official newspaper of the Vietnamese Communist Party, on Thursday, Xi said China and Vietnam were close neighbours, and the people of the two nations “fought shoulder to shoulder” in the struggle for independence.

He said Ho “was like a brother” to China’s past leaders, including late chairman Mao Zedong and premier Zhou Enlai.

Vietnam has been at odds with China over their competing claims in the South China Sea. In July, under pressure from Beijing, Vietnam suspended drilling for oil in the contested waters. The next month, Vietnam voiced opposition to Chinese military drills near the disputed Paracel Islands.

Meanwhile Vietnam has strengthened military ties with the United States.

Last year Washington lifted a decades-long ban on the sale of military equipment to Hanoi, and in August this year Vietnam won US assurances of a strong defence relationship based on common interests, including freedom of navigation in the waterway.

In his article, Xi said Vietnam and China “need to well manage our differences and disagreements”.

The parties must “stay committed to seeking a fundamental and durable solution to the maritime issues acceptable to both sides through friendly consultation,” he said.

China often refers to Vietnam as its “friend” and “comrade”, a legacy of their shared communist political systems.

Ahead of Apec, a group of Chinese delegates signed 83 trade deals with Vietnam worth a combined US$1.94 billion, according to state-run Xinhua.

After Vietnam, Xi will make a state visit to Laos, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Trump has given Xi Jinping a pass on the South China Sea

November 10, 2017

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(Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

By Steve Mollman

The South China Sea is, for many, a worrying geopolitical flashpoint. But for Xi Jinping, it’s a source of pride.

When Xi recently addressed the Communist Party congress, he boasted that “construction on islands and reefs in the South China Sea has seen steady progress.” In recent years, China has built military facilities on reefs and islands to bolster its claim to nearly the entire sea. An international tribunal invalidated that claim last year, but Beijing dismissed the ruling.

During US president Donald Trump’s time in office, China’s expansion activities in the waterway have continued, and there’s every indication it plans to further entrench itself in what analysts fear will become a “Chinese lake.” Trump didn’t publicly challenge his hosts about the South China Sea while in Beijing this week, and in a display of camaraderie said he felt a “great chemistry” with Xi. But he will have a chance to address the issue in the days ahead at regional summits in Vietnam and the Philippines as part of his lengthy Asia trip.

Those countries, along with Malaysia and Brunei, have their own claims in the sea that conflict with China’s. In many cases China’s sweeping claim—demarcated by its nine-dash line—intersects with other nations’ exclusive economic zones. The zone gives those nations sole rights to the natural resources in and below the water, as per the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Despite this, China, in the waters it also claims, expects joint development of the resources, which include oil and natural gas.

Map of China's nine-dash line showing the Spratly and Paracel islands and Scarborough Shoal
A contested sea.

Trump offered tough talk on China’s island-building while he was running for president last year, but since assuming office he’s made it less of a priority than his campaign rhetoric suggested. North Korea is a big reason why. Trump believes China, as North Korea’s largest trading partner, could apply enough economic pressure to force Pyongyang to change its ways, so he’s essentially been wooing Xi. With North Korea and US-China trade his main concerns, the South China Sea has fallen by the wayside.

But not for Beijing. As recent developments suggest, it’s going full steam ahead in bolstering its position in the waterway.

For example, China has built a new drone to deliver supplies to islands lacking a proper runway. It also plans to use floating nuclear reactors to power its islands, with the first undergoing final tests now—up to 20 could eventually provide electricity to China’s outposts in the sea. And this month, China unveiled a large dredging ship dubbed the “magical island-maker” by its creators and capable of suctioning up mud, sand, and coral, and depositing the debris as new land more efficiently than its predecessors. The vessel can dig 6,000 cubic meters (21,189 cubic feet) an hour, the equivalent of three standard swimming pools, from 35 meters (115 feet) below the water’s surface. South China Sea watchers quickly saw its potential to create more islands.

Trump will get another chance to challenge China’s maritime moves when he attends an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Vietnam on Nov. 10-11. More opportunities will come in the Philippines when he attends events tied to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Nov. 12-13, and then at the East Asia Summit before he returns to the US.

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte said this week that at the APEC meeting he’ll seek clarification from Xi, who will also be present, on Beijing’s intentions in the sea. “You want to control the passage, or do we have free passage?” he said at a news briefing before leaving for Vietnam. But Duterte has hardly been a great challenger of China’s claims—he recently halted construction of bamboo huts on a sandbar after Beijing complained.

Trump can afford to be more assertive—whatever his chemistry with Xi.

Trump has given Xi Jinping a pass on the South China Sea

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte DEfends His “War on Drugs” While in Vietnam

November 10, 2017

AFP

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© AFP | Graphic charting the number of people killed in anti-drug operations in the Philippines since July 2016.
DANANG (VIETNAM) (AFP) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said he stabbed a person to death as a teenager, in a defiant speech to promote his drug war ahead of a summit of world leaders in Manila.Speaking to the local Filipino community in the Vietnamese city of Danang on Thursday, Duterte also threatened to slap a UN rights rapporteur if he met her, and used obscene language to hit back at critics of his deadly drugs crackdown.

“When I was a teenager, I would go in and out of jail. I’d have rumbles here, rumbles there,” said Duterte, who is in Danang for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

“At the age of 16, I already killed someone. A real person, a rumble, a stabbing. I was just 16 years old. It was just over a look. How much more now that I am president?”

Duterte won last year’s presidential elections after promising to eradicate illegal drugs with an unprecedented crackdown that would see up to 100,000 people killed.

Since he took office 16 months ago, police say they have killed 3,967 people in the crackdown. Another 2,290 people were murdered in drug-related crimes, while thousands of other deaths remain unsolved, according to government data.

Duterte, 72, remains popular with many Filipinos who believe he is making society safer.

But critics at home and abroad warn that he is orchestrating a campaign of extrajudicial mass murder, carried out by corrupt police and hired vigilantes.

He at times denies inciting police or others to kill, but also consistently generates headlines for his abusive language and incendiary comments defending the drug war.

Duterte said last year he would be “happy to slaughter” three million drug addicts and branded then US president Barack Obama a “son of a whore” for criticising the drug war.

Duterte also said in December last year that he had personally shot dead criminal suspects when he was mayor of southern Davao city to set an example for the police.

His then spokesman later sought to clarify the remarks, saying those killings were during a “legitimate police action”.

– Killer, or killer jokes –

Esquire magazine quoted Duterte as saying in an interview before he became president that he “maybe” stabbed someone to death when he was 17 years old, in what may be a reference to the incident described in Danang.

In an election campaign rally Duterte also said he was expelled from college for shooting a fellow student who was insulting him. The victim reportedly lived.

Duterte’s aides have repeatedly told journalists not to believe everything the president says, cautioning that he often jokes or indulges in “hyperbole”.

His new spokesman, Harry Roque, indicated that may be the case with his stabbing-to-death claim.

“I think it was in jest. The Pres uses colourful language when w Pinoys (Filipinos) overseas,” Roque said in a text message.

In Danang, Duterte also targeted the United Nations’ special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, who has been a frequent critic of the drug war.

“This rapporteur,” he said, after referring to Callamard by name. “I will slap her in front of you. Why? Because you are insulting me.”

Duterte’s latest comments come ahead of him hosting US President Donald Trump and other leaders for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.

Trump is due to fly into Manila from Vietnam along with many other leaders on Sunday evening, ahead of two days of talks.

Trump has praised Duterte’s handling of the drug war, telling the Philippine leader in a telephone call in April that he was doing a “great job”.

Human rights campaigners have said the summit will be a public relations coup for Duterte, with Trump and other leaders expected to ignore the drug war controversy.

“Duterte will enjoy the gift of tacit silence from East Asian leaders on his murderous drug war during the upcoming summit,” Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phelim Kine told AFP.

“The summit messaging will be of feel-good mutual economic win-wins that will ignore the fact that Duterte has inflected a campaign of mass extrajudicial killings.”

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South China Sea: More Diplomatic Engagement Needed, Vietnam’s Ambassador to India Says — “One Nation Cannot Block Off The Sea”

November 9, 2017

Vietnam

New Delhi, Nov 7 — In the backdrop of China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea, Vietnam today said “more diplomatic engagement” was needed to resolve the issue and that the region should not move towards a conflict situation.

Interacting with reporters at the Foreign Correspondents Club here, Vietnam’s Ambassador to India Ton Sinh Thanh, however, asserted that “whatever belongs to Vietnam has to be defended”.

He said South China Sea was an important maritime region and the trade of some of the world’s powerful countries, including the US and India, was conducted through it.

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Ton Sinh Thanh — Vietnam’s Ambassador to India. Photo by Priyanka Parashar — Mint

“China is not just a big country, but also a big neighbour. The South China Sea is a complicated problem and related not just to the island but also the exclusive economic zone. However, we do not have any other way (out of this problem) than through talks and negotiations.

“We should not move to a situation where we have to involve in a conflict. We need more diplomatic engagement and legal measures to solve this problem,” Thanh said in response to a question on Vietnam’s position on the South China Sea issue.

“Our position on this issue is very clear. We have already entered into a declaration with China as regards the code of conduct in the South China Sea. Hope there would be support from other countries, inside and outside of the region,” he said.

China claims sovereignty over all of South China Sea, a huge source of hydrocarbons. However, a number of ASEAN member countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei, have counter claims.

“But, of course, we have to be prepared. Whatever belongs to Vietnam, we have to defend. We have to defend our island and the exclusive economic zone,” the envoy said.

An exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is a sea zone as prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, over which a country has special rights regarding exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.

“There should be a voice from the region. If South China Sea is blocked, what will happen,” Thanh asked.

https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/south-china-sea-more-diplomatic-engagement-needed-says/1183829

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

South China Sea: Former Philippines FM says ASEAN is Adrift

November 9, 2017

‘In a broader context, one can say that ASEAN is adrift,’ former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario says ahead of the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila

Published 3:27 PM, November 08, 2017
Updated 9:34 AM, November 09, 2017

EX-TOP DIPLOMAT. Former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario in a speech on November 8, 2017, calls on ASEAN to exercise stronger leadership by emphasizing the rule of law. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

EX-TOP DIPLOMAT. Former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario in a speech on November 8, 2017, calls on ASEAN to exercise stronger leadership by emphasizing the rule of law. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario criticized the “lack of leadership” in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as he scored the 10-member bloc for failing to stress the need for international law.

In a speech on Wednesday, November 8, Del Rosario said many ASEAN states “have found themselves being pulled in different directions.”

He continued: “This has been worsened by a lack of leadership from among us. In a broader context, one can say that ASEAN is adrift.”

Del Rosario explained that “the challenges we presently face may be attributed to a lack of emphasis on the importance of international law.”

“Without this emphasis, we have a disjointed reality between the statements that we make and the practices that prevail on the ground. These practices, with militarization chiefly among them, add to confusion and subtract from enduring trust,” he said.

He also said that trust in ASEAN “depends on the body’s ability to achieve meaningful consensus and demonstrate its effectiveness.”

“If ASEAN pursues an overabundance of caution, it risks becoming only a bystander to the events within its own region,” Del Rosario said.

Del Rosario was speaking at a conference organized by his think tank, the Albert del Rosario Stratbase Institute, 5 days before the opening of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits hosted by the Philippines.

China’s ‘creeping force’

ASEAN, a regional grouping that is marking its 50th year, is sometimes blasted for weak statements against China’s aggression in the South China Sea.

Del Rosario was the foreign secretary who steered the Philippines in filing a case against China over the disputed waters. The Philippines won this case, but the Duterte administration chose to downplay this victory for the sake of better ties with China.

In his speech on Wednesday, Del Rosario emphasized China’s “creeping force” to control the South China Sea, parts of which the Philippines claims as the West Philippine Sea.

He stressed that China should pursue its goals “within the framework of international law.”

“In our view, China should consider if, in achieving its present military or economic objectives, it will continue to have a measure of respect from its neighbors,” he said.

He said, on the other hand, “if trying to get everyone to adhere to the rule of law does not work, one other alternative is an approach characterized by a strategic build-up of defense capabilities for deterrence purposes.”

He cited experts’ suggestions for ASEAN countries to “thoughtfully ramp up their defense transfers and invest in select military platforms as a matter of necessity.”

“Although a cycle of reactive militarization will surely raise the stakes and the tension, this may still be a prudent path,” Del Rosario said.

He then recalled the time when “our seas were less tumultuous and our differences were less intractable.”

“Time is running short for us to return to that period,” Del Rosario said. – Rappler.com

Duterte to Ask: What Are China’s Intentions in South China Sea? — Is Duterte too late?

November 9, 2017

By Steve Miller

FILE - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech at the official resident of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo, Oct. 30, 2017.

FILE – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech at the official resident of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo, Oct. 30, 2017.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he is planning to ask Beijing, during this week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), what its intentions are in the South China Sea and if Southeast Asian countries will be allowed to freely navigate the disputed, strategic sea.During his almost 18 months in office, Duterte has adopted a largely nonconfrontational approach toward Beijing and its competing claims in the South China Sea.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella explained in October 2016 that confrontation didn’t serve the interests of the Philippines, which was why Duterte was “committed to a process of engagement and negotiation” that would ensure that Manila’s rights are respected and protected.

South China Sea Territorial Claims

South China Sea Territorial Claims

Signal to US, China

Scott Harold, Rand Corp. associate director for the Center for Asia Pacific Policy, said Duterte’s plan to raise the issue now may be because the Philippine leader trying to play hard to get with Washington, while at the same time signaling China that not everything it does is OK.

“If he wants to extract resources or commitments … or appear to his base to be sufficiently patriotic, nationalistic, or what have you … he needs to stand up for the Philippines’ claim,” Harold said.

While Duterte has been content to downplay a July 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) award in favor of the Philippines, Harold notes Duterte must also convince his supporters that he’s doing enough to merit their trust.

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Readers might read “When China Rules the World” by Martin Jacques

Evan Rees, an Asia-Pacific analyst with the Texas-based think tank Stratfor, said Duterte’s approach may have another explanation.

“This softer approach to China isn’t because he’s trying to pursue a softer approach permanently with China, because he’s a Philippine nationalist … and he’s trying to shore up the Philippines position,” Rees said. “The Philippines is in a vulnerable spot, where it’s a maritime nation that needs to shore up its claims in the South China Sea. But it also has all sorts of internal problems to deal with.”

Now that the government has declared victory over Islamic State group-aligned militants who laid siege to the city of Marawi and the peace process is moving forward, Rees said Duterte now possesses the opportunity to push forward the Philippines’ maritime interests.

Damaged buildings in war-torn Marawi City, southern Philippines, Oct. 24, 2017, after the Philippines announced on Monday the end of five months of military operations in a southern city held by pro-Islamic State rebels.

Damaged buildings in war-torn Marawi City, southern Philippines, Oct. 24, 2017, after the Philippines announced on Monday the end of five months of military operations in a southern city held by pro-Islamic State rebels.

Is Duterte too late?

China, however, claims almost the entire South China Sea, through which about $3 trillion in goods passes each year. Beijing also has repeatedly said the Permanent Court of Arbitration had the jurisdiction to hear Manila’s challenge and rejected the award.

With numerous artificial islands developed by China in disputed waters, is it too late to raise the question of China’s intentions?

No, “because there are still things that the Philippines want,” Rees said, such as economic development concessions and engaging in joint drilling projects.

Rees said that by taking a slightly harder stance now, the Philippines can secure those things later as China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) develop a code of conduct for the South China Sea.

The Rand Corp.’s Harold said preventing China from more building in the disputed waterways is likely beyond the capacity of any of the countries in Southeast Asia.

It’s not fair to say, “look, he has failed to stop China … since that was not something that was within his or anyone else’s capacity,” he added.

https://www.voanews.com/a/duterte-china-south-china-sea/4107588.html

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.