Posts Tagged ‘Association of Southeast Asian Nations’

Philippines Learns A Hard Lesson About China: China Does Whatever China Pleases

May 8, 2018

Now there are Chinese missiles stationed inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ)….

In May 2014, China installed an oil rig near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, an area also claimed by Vietnam.

Refusing to take the provocation sitting down, Vietnam fired off a strongly worded diplomatic protest: “Vietnam demands China to withdraw the oil rig Haiyang 981 and all of its ships and aircraft from Vietnam’s waters and not to repeat similar actions,” said its Ministry of Affairs.

Opinion

Image result for Haiyang 981, photos

Additionally, Vietnam sent 29 ships to try to stop the rig’s operations, with resulting confrontations and water-spraying incidents between Chinese and Vietnamese vessels.

Vietnam also attempted to rally support against China’s actions at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, whose member-countries Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines have overlapping territorial claims with Beijing.

Vietnam even asked that the United States, its former enemy, lend a “stronger voice” against China.

Singapore, Japan, India, Russia, Australia, other countries and the European Union also issued statements of concern, urging caution against “unilateral actions [that] could affect the security environment in the region,” as the EU statement put it.

Beijing eventually bowed to the pressure. In July of that year, it quietly removed the oil rig — a full month earlier than was first announced.

What does Vietnam have that the Philippines doesn’t?

A leadership not the least bit beholden to China, for one. Vietnam’s sense of ownership over its claimed territories is such that it was willing to employ all possible actions — diplomatic protest, international consensus, even physical confrontation with Chinese vessels — to defend itself against the encroachments of its giant neighbor. And over an oil rig, mind — in waters that were still officially undemarcated under international law.

Contrast that with the Philippine position, which won tremendous international legal and moral standing with its 2016 victory in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

That ruling not only invalidated China’s so-called historic claim over almost the entire South China Sea, it also declared that Beijing violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights to fish and explore for resources in the West Philippine Sea, waters that were within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone.

Those waters happen to include the Kagitingan, Zamora and Panganiban reefs — three features within the Philippine exclusive economic zone that China at first seized, then transformed into artificial islands.

All for peaceful purposes, it repeatedly said. But recently, with its reclamation all but complete and the Beijing-friendly Duterte administration not bothering to protest any of its actions, China has set aside all such pretense by confirming that it has militarized the area with the “deployment of necessary national defense facilities … aimed at protecting China’s sovereignty and security.”

The CNBC news network was more specific: It said China had deployed antiship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on the Philippine-claimed reefs.

Will Malacañang now wake up to the grave implications to Philippine national security of its policy of appeasement toward Beijing?

Strangely, President Duterte remains completely besotted with his Chinese friends.

Not only are those weapons not directed at the Philippines and hence should pose no worry, said Malacañang; according to the President, China has also said, “We will protect you … We are just here and you can call for our help anytime.”

What kind of help is gobbling up the territory of a friendly country and — in violation of its own promise in 2015 — arming that territory to the gills?

Certainly, war is not an option to settle this dispute, but why, on the other hand, embrace the extreme opposite position of deference and obsequiousness to a country that has repeatedly run roughshod over Philippine interests?

Acquiescence has obviously not worked; it has only further emboldened China to take advantage of a complaisant government. Look at what two years of bowing and kowtowing has earned the Philippines thus far: foreign missiles in its own backyard.

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/113026/missiles-ph-backyard#ixzz5EuyzfduZ
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook
.

Related:

.

No automatic alt text available.

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.

.

Related:

Advertisements

Malaysia’s Najib Says Rohingya Crisis Raises Regional Terror Threat

March 18, 2018

In a break from convention, prime minister criticizes a fellow Asean member at a summit

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, left, with Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi at a reception on Friday as part of the Asean summit in Sydney.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, left, with Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi at a reception on Friday as part of the Asean summit in Sydney. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

SYDNEY—Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak identified the Rohingya crisis as a major security threat to Southeast Asia, a rare criticism of a neighboring nation at a conference meant to engender better cooperation on security in the region.

Speaking at a counterterrorism conference in Sydney ahead of a special summit of regional leaders with Australia, Prime Minister Najib Razak broke with Association of Southeast Asian Nations convention to avert internal criticisms, warning bluntly that the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine state could prove fertile ground for recruitment of Islamic State-inspired militants.

“Because of the suffering of Rohingya people and that of displacement around the region, the situation in Rakhine state and Myanmar can no longer be considered to be a purely domestic matter,” Mr. Najib told fellow leaders including Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Saturday.

“Rakhine, with thousands of despairing and exacted people, who see no hope in the future, will be a fertile ground for radicalization and recruitment of Daesh, by Daesh and Daesh-affiliated groups,” Mr. Najib said, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State. Malaysia, he said, was ready to help steer diplomatic efforts to end the crisis, as well as Islamist conflicts in the southern Philippines and southern Thailand.

Ms. Suu Kyi didn’t respond to Mr. Najib’s comments and Myanmar’s government has previously rejected reports presented to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations that it had committed human rights crimes.

A Myanmar government spokesman, however, promised last month that action would be taken against soldiers and police as part of an army investigation into alleged atrocities in Rakhine.

Australia is hosting the special summit with nine of the 10 leaders from the association, known as Asean, to try to strengthen security and economic ties as a hedge against a more muscular China under President Xi Jinping and uncertainty about U.S. commitment to the region under President Donald Trump.

The leaders signed an agreement to increase cooperation on counterterrorism and combat the threat from Islamic State fighters returning to the region after the group’s defeats in Syria and Iraq. The Philippine government’s long battle to drive Islamic State-linked militants from the southern city of Marawi has drawn Asean members closer together on counterterrorism efforts.

Mr. Najib’s remarks came at the end of the conference, at which Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the use of digital-messaging systems by terrorists and criminal groups had triggered “the most significant degradation of intelligence capability in modern times.”

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, opening the three-day summit, said regional security was inseparable from economic gains, calling for fellow leaders to support the “rules-based order” of international law as the U.S. and China jostle for influence in the region.

China has claimed territorial rights in most of the South China Sea, building and militarizing artificial atolls straddling strategic maritime trade routes in the face of challenges from neighbors including Asean members Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Asian leaders have come under pressure to raise human rights concerns with Ms. Suu Kyi over Myanmar’s military operations that have driven hundreds of thousands of Rohingya into Bangladesh.

Write to Rob Taylor at rob.taylor@wsj.com

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/australia-urges-asian-nations-to-strengthen-counterterrorism-cooperation-1521250209

Terrorists’ Digital Messages Target of ASEAN, Australia, pact

March 17, 2018

(Bloomberg) — Terrorists operating in Southeast Asia will be targeted in a pan-regional pact designed to enhance intelligence sharing and disrupt potential attackers’ ability to communicate through digital messaging.

“Terrorism is a truly global threat, as digital as it is dangerous,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Saturday at the signing of a counter-terrorism memorandum of understanding at his country’s special summit with Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders in Sydney. “The use of social media and encrypted messaging applications is a challenge for us all, and one we must tackle together.”

Image result for digital, messaging, photos

The nations committed to improve legislative and enforcement tools to combat the cross-border movement of extremists, including obtaining and using electronic communications evidence for prosecutions. They also pledged to increase legislative efforts to boost counter-terrorism financing and information-sharing between members.

Read more on what’s next for ISIS

The move comes as concern in Southeast Asia grows about the influence of ISIS-inspired terrorists returning from the Middle East, with Indonesia and Philippines seen by some experts as vulnerable to further attacks. Australia, a key ally of the U.S., is also on high alert with the likelihood of an attack deemed probable. Intelligence services there have disrupted or stopped at least a dozen major terrorism plots since 2014.

The Summit’s counter-terrorism conference is designed to bring regional intelligence agencies and policy-makers together to strengthen cross-border efforts to crack down on terrorism financing and planning.

“The use of encrypted messaging apps by terrorists and criminals is potentially the most significant degradation of intelligence capability in modern times,” Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told the meeting on Saturday.

Dutton is leading attempts to pass legislation in Australia’s parliament that he says will make communications companies pass on potential terrorism-related messages to intelligence agencies, and boost authorities’ ability to use surveillance devices.

“We all have a vested interest in each other defeating terrorist movements wherever they arise,” Turnbull said. “Just as the terrorists’ networks are transnational, so must be our collaboration, and nowhere more so than in the sharing of intelligence.”

The pact is one of the core objectives of the special summit between Asean and Australia, which has been organized at Turnbull’s behest to enhance regional economic and security ties. Leaders of the nations will meet on Sunday.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

Bloomberg
Stay Updated With OnWeb News On BloombergQuint

Human Rights Protests Surround ASEAN Summit in Sydney, Australia

March 17, 2018

Demonstrators have rallied against Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and Cambodia’s Hun Sen. The protests have overshadowed a regional agreement targeting terror groups’ use of encrypted platforms.

Members of the Rohingya community gather in Hyde park to protest against Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, special summit, in Sydney

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Sydney on Saturday to protest Southeast Asian leaders gathering in the Australian city for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.

“We are here today in solidarity among the communities from Southeast Asia who are facing dictatorship and genocide, of course particularly in the Rohingya community,” said Shawfikul Islam from the Australian Burmese Rohingya Organization.

Read more: Myanmar’s Rohingya: A history of forced exoduses

Banners carried by protesters showed images of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi with a stylized moustache reminiscent of Nazi Germany dictator Adolf Hitler, calling for her to return the esteemed prize. She has had several awards revoked over the military campaign.

Suu Kyi has been accused by Western governments and human rights groups of doing nothing to stop the Burmese military from implementing a brutal crackdown against the Muslim-minority Rohingya in western Myanmar. Many have called it a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Protesters rallying against Cambodia's Hun SenProtesters have decried human rights violations in Cambodia after Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to “beat” anyone rallying against his regime in Australia

‘Hands full of blood’

A group of Australian lawyers on Saturday sought to have Suu Kyi prosecuted on charges of crimes against humanity. However, Australian Attorney General Christian Porter rejected their legal application, saying she “has complete immunity, including from being served with court documents.”

Protesters and rights groups also singled out Cambodian strongman Hun Sen’s regime for committing human rights violations. The Cambodian leader threatened violence against demonstrators before arriving in Sydney.

Read more: Is Cambodia an autocratic state now?

Victorian lawmaker Hong Lim of the Labor party accused Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of turning a blind-eye to human rights abuses, saying: “Many of the hands he’s shaking yesterday, today and tomorrow are hands full of blood.”

Group photo of ASEAN-Australia special summit 2018Australia has signed an agreement with ASEAN states to further increase counterterrorism cooperation despite protests decrying human rights violations committed by several of the bloc’s members

Security pact

The protests overshadowed an agreement signed by Australia and 10 ASEAN member states to bolster cooperation and coordination to counter terrorism in the region.

“Terrorism and violent extremism transcend national borders,” said Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. “Countering the threat requires a united and cohesive regional effort involving coordination between our respective national security and law enforcement agencies.”

Read more: Is Philippines’ Marawi free from ‘Islamic State’ influence?

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that the “Islamic State” militant group was targeting the region’s 300 million Muslims. With the group effectively losing most of the territory it held in Iraq and Syria, it has tried to expand its influence in areas outside the Middle East, including Southeast Asia and Africa.

The security agreement aims to streamline cooperation on intercepting messages and preventing radicalization, including by expanding methods to break through encrypted platforms.

ls/jlw (AFP, AP, dpa)

Related:

ASEAN military chiefs push for peace in South China Sea

March 12, 2018

ASEAN military chiefs also stress the need for ‘a peaceful resolution’ of the South China Sea dispute

Published 4:18 PM, March 11, 2018
Updated 4:33 PM, March 11, 2018
2016 PHOTO. Structures seen on a satellite image of Mischief Reef on November 15, 2016, released December 13, 2016. Image courtesy of CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe

2016 PHOTO. Structures seen on a satellite image of Mischief Reef on November 15, 2016, released December 13, 2016. Image courtesy of CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe

MANILA, Philippines – Military chiefs of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) pushed for peace in the disputed South China Sea, as they also stressed the need to avoid moves “that may complicate the situation.”

The military chiefs made this statement after the ASEAN Chiefs of Defense Forces Informal Meeting (ACDFIM) held in Singapore on Thursday, March 8.

The chiefs reaffirmed “the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety, and freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea, as well as the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may complicate the situation.”

They also emphasized the importance of “a peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law,” according to a statement by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. (READ: ASEAN 2017: A wasted opportunity for the West Philippine Sea)

The Philippines owns the rights over part of the South China Sea, called the West Philippine Sea, within the Southeast Asian country’s 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Terrorism, disaster response tackled: After their meeting in Singapore, heads of defense forces also spoke of a “Resilience, Response, Recovery” framework to deter terrorist attacks in the region.

The military chiefs then agreed to work on the “operationalization of mechanisms to enhance ASEAN responses to natural disasters, such as the ASEAN Military Ready Group (AMRG).” (READ: How climate change affects ASEAN affairs)

The AMRG would be a precursor for an ASEAN quick response team for immediate coordinated deployment to ASEAN countries and areas affected by disasters. – Rappler.com

https://www.rappler.com/world/regions/asia-pacific/197902-asean-military-chiefs-south-china-sea-dispute

Philippines Denies Being Soft on China, International Law After Photos Show At Least Seven Chinese Military Bases Now Near Philippines

February 7, 2018
By: – Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
 / 05:10 PM February 07, 2018
Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque (File photo by JOAN BONDOC / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

The Philippines on Wednesday downplayed criticisms that the government is being “too soft” in dealing with China’s militarization in the South China Sea as it joined the call of Southeast Asian nations for non-militarization and self-restraint in the disputed territory.

Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor and water

Mischief Reef now an extensive Chinese military base

Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on Tuesday raised concerns on the continued militarization and reclamation of China in the disputed sea despite an earlier agreement to proceed with talks in crafting a sea code.

The statement came after aerial photos showed that China was nearly done transforming disputed reefs in the South China Sea into island fortresses.

Image may contain: cloud, sky and outdoor

Photos show China’s South China Sea island fortresses

 

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said top diplomats of Asean were “right” in airing their concerns against China.

“Oo, tama naman po yang concern na ‘yan dahil ang hinihingi ng Asean bilang isang bloke, tumalima sa discussion ng code of conduct [ang China],” Roque told reporters in a phone patch interview.

(Yes, they are right regarding their concern because what they are asking, being a bloc, is for China to adhere to the discussion of the code of conduct.)

 No automatic alt text available.

“[K]asama tayo sa Asean. “Yan po ang panawagan ng Asean. Kasama ang Pilipinas sa panawagan na yan,” he added.

(We are included in the Asean. That is the Asean’s call. The Philippines is one of them in calling for that.)

Sought for comments on criticisms that the Philippines was too soft in dealing with Beijing’s aggression in the South China Sea, Roque denied this, saying the government only wanted to maintain peace and stability in the disputed sea.

No automatic alt text available.

Chinese military bases near the Philippines

“We are not being too soft po pero meron tayong (but we have already) established policy diyan. Number one is: we are of course one with Asean in recognizing that this is a concern or all Asean countries, the freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea. Number two of course our common concern is peace security and stability in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes,” he said.

Since he assumed office, President Rodrigo Duterte has taken steps to mend Manila’s strained relations with Beijing after it went hostile during the term of former President Benigno Aquino III due to the long-unresolved territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor, water and nature

Chinese warships have been observed in transit between islands near the Philippines

Duterte has vowed to take a “soft-landing” approach in dealing with the country’s maritime dispute with China, setting aside the United Nations (UN) arbitral ruling, which invalidate Beijing’s weeping claims to almost all of the South China Sea. /jpv

Check out our Asean 2017 special site for important information and latest news on the 31st Asean Summit to be held in Manila on Nov. 13-15, 2017. Visit http://inquirer.net/asean-2017.

Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/163910/palace-denies-ph-soft-sea-row-china#ixzz56QDTsmgS
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Related:

Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor, water and nature

No automatic alt text available.

China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. 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.

India takes fight to China via SEAsia

January 30, 2018

Association of Southeast Asian Nations and India’s newly announced ‘Delhi Declaration’ puts maritime security at the forefront of relations

 MANILA, JANUARY 29, 2018 1:26 PM (UTC+8)
.
An Indian army contingent marches holding the national flags of the Asean countries during a dress rehearsal for Indian Republic Day parade in New Delhi on January 23, 2018. Photo: AFP/Money Sharma

An Indian army contingent marches holding the national flags of the Asean countries during a dress rehearsal for Indian Republic Day parade in New Delhi on January 23, 2018. Photo: AFP/Money Sharma

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.

Image result for china's J-11 Fighter, photos

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.

 http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2017/12/07/2017120700629.html
.
Related:
.
.

Image result for china, fighter jets, photos

No automatic alt text available.

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.

 

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.

Image may contain: 2 people

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

Related:

.
.
.

.

No automatic alt text available.

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.