Posts Tagged ‘Association of Southeast Asian Nations’

Philippine President Duterte’s Defeatist Behavior — Philippines might soon become a province of China

November 26, 2018

With international law on the  side of the Philippines, why is Duterte is selling us to China?

Talk about telling it like it is!

The editorial, “Music to Beijing’s ears” (11/20/18), didn’t mince words, so to speak, in recounting President Duterte’s sheepish behavior toward China from the start.

Isn’t that weird, the way Digong shows his deference to anything and everything China wants to snatch away from the Philippines?

Image result for Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte wave to the media following a welcome ceremony at Malacanang Palace in Manila
Chinese President Xi Jinping, center back, and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte wave to the news media after a welcome ceremony at the Malacanang Palace in Manila on Nov. 20. (Bullit Marquez/AP)

Considering the way he bullies the helpless in his own country, you would think that he’s the type who would not give in to anyone who tries to cross his line.

But, heck, NO! With his Chinese counterpart, Digong is ready, willing and able to do whatever Xi wants.

Let’s hope that Xi Jinping doesn’t take full advantage of Digong’s defeatist behavior, or our dear Philippines might soon become a province of China.


Letter to the Editor

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Music to Beijing’s ears

 / 05:09 AM November 20, 2018

Even for a national leader who has racked up a startling record of slavish statements toward China (“I announce my separation from the United States.)

I have separated from them. So I will be dependent on you for all time,” October 2016, on a state visit to Beijing; “Thank you President Xi Jinping and the Chinese people for loving us and giving us enough leeway to survive the rigors of economic life in this planet,” March 2017; “I just simply love Xi Jinping… More than anybody else at this time of our national life, I need China,” April 2018; “The assurances of [President] Xi Jinping were very encouraging… ‘We will not allow you to be taken out from your office, and we will not allow the Philippines to go to the dogs,’” May 2018), President Duterte’s latest remarks regarding the Philippines’ and other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member-countries’ competing territorial claims against Beijing in the South China Sea (SCS) were still a disquieting level-up.

On the sidelines of the Asean Summit in Singapore last week, he said in an interview: “I’d like to tell China… at all costs we must have the COC [Code of Conduct]. So you’re there, you’re in possession, you occupied it, then tell us what route shall we take and what kind of behavior you [expect].”

The following day, he said he was opposed to military drills in the SCS because China “is already in possession” of these waters, and such exercises by the United States and other countries may only provoke Beijing: “Why do you have to create frictions, strong military activity, that will prompt a
response from China?”

What music that must have been to Beijing’s ears, hearing Mr. Duterte’s robust defense and reiteration of its position.

Not only did the president of a country with a direct competing claim — no, one whose position has actually been validated by an international arbitral tribunal — affirm that China now has effective “possession” of the region, a vast expanse that includes international waters and parts that are claimed by at least five other countries in Southeast Asia; that president also asked Beijing to “tell us what route shall we take” and, in effect, shooed away other countries from further inconveniencing China with their protests and misgivings.

That outcome is exactly what China has been hoping to achieve with its aggressive game plan: Seize disputed islands, enlarge and fortify them as Chinese military outposts, and thereafter present them as a fait accompli, a done deal, that the international community, tangled up in slow-moving diplomacy, must now accept meekly.

No more dispiriting words could have been spoken by a Philippine leader about a neighbor’s encroachments, or heard by Filipinos who expect Mr. Duterte to, at the very least, articulate Philippine interests and defend the country’s position as the territorial sovereign of its own hard-won, and internationally recognized, portion of the SCS. None of the other claimant countries, it must be said, subscribe to China’s so-called “possession” of the area; not one of them voiced support for Mr. Duterte’s remarks, or have renounced their claims, or said anything that would imply, in any remote way, ceding an inch of their claimed territories to the rising hegemon in the region. Instead, they continue to defend their side vigorously—Vietnam engaging the Chinese Navy in skirmishes, for instance, and Indonesia dynamiting illegal Chinese boats.

Filipinos have no wish for war with China; but, on the other hand, must subservience be the only other recourse for the Philippine government? Especially when the very notion of China’s “possession” — that there is nothing more to do at this time but curl up and accept its effective ownership of the SCS — is without any basis?

As Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio was quick to point out, “Factually, China is not in possession of the South China Sea.” While it is in physical possession of the entire Paracels, seven geologic features in the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal, these constitute “less than 8 percent of the total area of the South China Sea… About 25 percent of the South China Sea are high seas. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), no state can possess or own the high seas which belong to all mankind. Under Unclos, there is freedom of navigation and overflight in the high seas for all nations.”

Who’s telling — or not telling — the President about these things?

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See also:

“What does China have on President Duterte?”



South China Sea: For China, enormous tasks and uncertainties lie ahead — ASEAN nations have serious doubts

November 24, 2018

China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have been on a roll since late last year in their efforts to promote peace and stability in the South China Sea.

By Collin Koh
South China Morning Post

They promulgated the draft framework on the proposed code of conduct and adopted a single draft negotiating text for the code in August.

These developments attracted a mixture of reactions – from the most sceptical to the most upbeat about future progress in finalising the mechanism.

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Anti-China protests in the Philippines during Xi Jinping’s visit, Nov. 20, 2018, Philippine Star photo

However, it would appear that those who expected the code of conduct talks to ride to a swift realisation on the momentum built up by the draft framework and single draft negotiating text might be sorely disappointed.

While some Asean policy elites had indicated that the code might materialise as fast as within the next year, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang may have poured cold water on it with his remarks that the code could take three years to finalise.

Unsurprisingly, at the recent regional summit in Singapore, both Asean and China nevertheless expressed their common desire to finalise discussions on the code.

Never mind the most optimistic predictions or otherwise; it is important to highlight that inasmuch as one would want to see the code expeditiously agreed upon and operationalised, rushing the code does not appear to be the wisest thing to do.

Considerably enormous tasks and uncertainties lie ahead even after the single draft negotiating text was adopted by the 11 parties.

Xi Jinping, Rodrigo Duterte

If one bothers to look back at the history of multilateral arms control negotiations it is not difficult to identify the intricate set of challenges all parties face in the process of agreeing to such a treaty. The code is by all intents and purposes an arms control mechanism, albeit not the classical type which endeavours to limit the quantity and quality of armaments.

Rather, it would be akin to what arms control theorists call “operational arms control”, which, unlike structural arms control, seeks to limit not armaments per se but the way they are being employed. While these concepts might appear to be archaic cold war ideals, even today so-called confidence and security-building measures (CSBM) – such as the code under negotiation – aspire to accomplish precisely the same aims, which is to promote transparency and necessary constraints upon state parties’ behaviour in the context of interstate rivalry.

And the challenges faced in the past are nowhere different from today’s CSBM. Progress, longevity and eventual outcomes in the negotiations are highly dependent on the state parties’ national interests. The more parties are involved, the more potential spoilers in the works of the negotiating process since a multitude of national interests, which may conflict with each other, have to be taken on board with the hope that those at the discussion table can reach a consensus. This entire process can take a long time, reaping uncertain returns both good and bad.

Filipinos protest in Makati against the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: AP

And history is replete also with arms control treaties that died in the process of negotiations because parties could not come to terms with each other, or, even after pacts were signed, implementation became problematic because violations by any party could not be satisfactorily redressed through proper provisions for compliance, verification and enforcement.

It is therefore through the lens of heeding the history of arms control negotiations that one tampers with expectations about the code of conduct for the South China Sea, an unprecedented mechanism of this scale and ambition in a region that has traditionally not been well socialised with formal, institutionalised CSBM – or operational arms control mechanisms.

There are 11 parties, each having its own varying national interests with respect to not only the South China Sea disputes but more broadly their relations with each other and with external stakeholders. There is not plausibly going to be a common Asean stance with respect to the code of conduct precisely because of this.

Hence, one should not expect the talks to be dealt with on a bloc-versus-China basis. The diversity of interests among 11 parties is real and needs to be taken into full account. This also means an inherent uncertainty that will fraught the process.

As such, it might actually not be a bad thing if the talks require more than a year, going up to three perhaps as suggested by the Chinese premier, or even longer if the aim is to promulgate an effective code – one that transpires from a collective recognition of the challenges and a collective desire to overcome them.

Of course, the caveat for accommodating the idea of a longer process is that all parties have to engage in it in good faith. And that is most likely what makes or breaks the whole process.

Even as talks continue, some if not all claimants in the South China Sea continue to spruce up their physical hold over the occupied features within the disputed waters.

Call that militarisation or anything else – the truth of the matter is that such moves, despite efforts to sugar-coat them as “defensive” measures, do not lend to the promotion of mutual confidence among parties engaged in the code of conduct talks.

Yet from the realistic standpoint, until all concerned parties – which probably have to include even external stakeholders not party to the talks – can derive a consensus on what “militarisation” means and the activities it encompasses, having a moratorium on build-up and associated activities in the South China Sea seems a tall order.

So perhaps, if all parties are either going to exercise limited self-restraint or none at all in carrying out their activities in the sea, business as usual, then the very least that parties should do to maintain a cordial atmosphere for the talks to go on is to refrain from untoward incidents between forces operating in the area.

Asean and China have only one chance to succeed. But the one who stands to lose most from a failed or ineffectually implemented code would be Asean.

It would lose its credibility if the code of conduct either failed to materialise as talks collapsed, or is poked with numerous holes by recalcitrant violations after its promulgation.

Yet China would under all conceivable scenarios remain in a physically advantageous position in the sea: those militarised artificial islands are still there regardless of whether the talks succeed or otherwise.

The alternative, of course, will be to keep the process as an ongoing iteration of continuous talks – nothing more but talks, verbal promises, rhetorical expression of the desire for this code to eventually materialise through the boilerplate political declarations customarily issued by Asean and China. One may criticise the merits of this. But at least in the face of an intractable situation where the multiple parties at the negotiating table could not reconcile their differences, the appearance of an ongoing process may still give Asean some saving grace.

Collin Koh is research fellow with the Maritime Security Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, based in Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

ASEAN may be forced to choose between US, China

November 21, 2018

Southeast Asian nations may soon have to “choose sides” between the US and China in their ongoing trade war, the political heir to Cambodia’s strongman ruler Hun Sen warned Wednesday in rare public comments.

Impoverished Cambodia has become an unlikely staging ground for geopolitical influence in Asia.

Southeast Asian leaders pose for a group photo during the 13th East Asian Summit Plenary on the sidelines of the 33rd ASEAN summit in Singapore on Thursday, November 15. (AP)

In recent years it has turned into a key China ally, heading off criticism of the superpower over its claims to disputed seas in exchange for billions of dollars in investment and loans.

While China has cozied up to Cambodia, the United States and the European Union have admonished Hun Sen, the nation’s ruler for 33 years, for his increasingly authoritarian rule.

In a rare speech outside of his country, his son, Hun Many warned the US-China trade spat may create lasting divisions in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“Perhaps one day ASEAN would have to choose between US or China,” Hun Many said in Bangkok.

“How would we see the trade war spill or expanded in other areas? Surely it will pressure individual members of ASEAN or ASEAN as a whole to choose sides.”

The economic ripples of the trade spat between China and the US could destabilize global supply chain links in Southeast Asia, while a slump in Chinese spending would impact its trading partners.

Cambodia’s strongman Hun Sen has welcomed Chinese investment to pump-prime his country’s economy.

At the same time, he has accused the US of trying to foment revolution in Cambodia by supporting his critics.

Both the US and EU decried the July elections, which were held without a credible opposition and gave Hun Sen another term in power.

When asked which of the superpowers Cambodia would side with, the Australian-educated Hun Many demurred.

“At the end of the day, it depends on those who are involved to take a more responsible approach for their decisions that affects the entire world,” he said.

Earlier this week, Hun Sen swatted away concerns that Beijing will construct a naval base off the southwest coast of Cambodia, which would provide ready access to the disputed South China Sea.

Beijing claims most of the flashpoint area, infuriating the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan who all have competing claims to its islands and potentially resource-rich waters.

Hun Many, who described himself as a “proud son,” is widely believed to be in the running to one day replace his father.

His elder brother, Manit, is the head of a military intelligence unit while Manet, the oldest, was promoted in September to the chief of joint staff of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces as well as the commander of the infantry army headquarters.

But Many brushed aside the notion.

“It is way too soon to say that I am in the next generation of leaders,” he said.



Pence says South China Sea doesn’t belong to any one nation

November 16, 2018

The South China Sea does not belong to any one nation and the United States will continue to sail and fly wherever international law allows, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Friday, in a challenge to China which claims the waterway.


Li Keqiang, from left, Vladimir Putin, Lee Hsien Loong, Prayuth Chan-Ocha and Mike Pence.  Photographer: Alexei Druzhinin/TASS via Getty Images


The United States has conducted a series of “freedom of navigation” exercises in the contested South China Sea, angering China, which says the patrols threaten its sovereignty.

“The South China Sea doesn’t belong to any one nation, and you can be sure: The United States will continue to sail and fly wherever international law allows and our national interests demand,” Pence said.

China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan, all have claims in the South China Sea, through which some $3 trillion of shipborne trade passes each year.

Pence on Thursday told leaders of Southeast Asian nations there was no place for “empire and aggression” in the Indo-Pacific region, a comment that could be interpreted as a reference to China’s rise.

Speaking to a regional summit, Pence directly criticized China’s action in the South China Sea, according to a transcript of his remarks.

“Let me be clear: China’s militarization and territorial expansion in the South China Sea is illegal and dangerous. It threatens the sovereignty of many nations and endangers the prosperity of the world,” he said.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said no country, including the United States, had ever provided any evidence of problems with freedom of navigation or overflight in the South China Sea.

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying

“May I trouble you to remind Mr Pence, that the United States has yet to ratify the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS),” Hua told a daily news briefing.

“If the United States can at an early date ratify and abide by UNCLOS, then I think this will benefit even more the protection of peace and stability in the South China Sea area.”

The 1982 convention defines how coastal states are allowed to establish sovereignty over territorial seas and exclusive economic zones. China has signed and ratified it.

Pence’s comments follow a major speech in October in which he flagged a tougher U.S. approach toward China, accusing it of “malign” efforts to undermine U.S. President Donald Trump and reckless military actions in the South China Sea.

Reporting by John Geddie; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel



See also:

Without Trump, U.S. Gives Way to Putin in Asian Summit Line-Up

Philippine President Duterte: ‘South China Sea is Possessed by China’

November 16, 2018

“China is already in possession of the South China Sea. It’s now in their hands.”

With Beijing already in possession of vast areas in the South China Sea, the United States and other countries should just accept this “reality” and avoid creating “friction” that could lead to full-scale military confrontation, President Duterte said yesterday.

Duterte at the 2017 ASEAN China meeting

“And in all of these things, China is there. That’s a reality and America and everybody should realize that they are there,” Duterte told reporters yesterday on the sidelines of the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit here.

“So if you just keep on creating friction, little friction, one day a bad miscalculation could turn things… Murphy’s Law – if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong,” he said.

Image result for china, philippines, flags

He stressed military drills could spark hostilities in the region “because I said China is already in possession. It’s now in their hands.”

He said military exercises could be seen as provocation that could “prompt a response from China.”

The Chief Executive explained he was actually protecting national sovereignty in taking a more peaceful approach to dealing with China.

“I do not mind everybody going to war, except that the Philippines is just beside those islands. And if there’s a shooting there, my country will be the first to suffer,” he said.

“That’s my only – that is my only national interest there. Nothing else,” Duterte added.

As the country-coordinator of ASEAN-China dialog, Duterte reiterated he would try his best to facilitate the release of a code of conduct (COC) on South China Sea in three years.

“I will try my best. I made a very strong statement about the urgent need for a COC so that everybody will know,” he said. “Because when you claim an ocean, the whole of it, then that is a new development in today’s world,” he added.

Duterte noted there might be a need to review or even make radical changes in international laws, particularly on the right of innocent passage.

“So, any sense, it would also change – radical changes in the laws of governing international waters, particularly the right of free passage or the right of innocent passage,” he said.

Under the principle of innocent passage, vessels are allowed to pass through territorial waters of other states subject to certain restrictions.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a passage is “innocent” if it is “not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State. Such passage shall take place in conformity with this Convention and with other rules of international law.”


Amid Duterte’s call for the US and other nations to avoid provocative actions in the South China Sea, ASEAN members reiterated the need for self-restraint in the conduct of activities in disputed waters.

“We discussed the matters relating to the South China Sea and took note of some concerns on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region,” Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a statement.

“We reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation, and pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS,” Lee said.

“We reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea and recognized the benefits of having the South China Sea as a sea of peace, stability and prosperity,” he added.

Lee underscored the importance of a full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety.

In the same statement, Lee also underscored the ASEAN and China’s dialogue on the South China Sea issue.

“We warmly welcomed the continued improving cooperation between ASEAN and China and were encouraged by the progress of the substantive negotiations towards the early conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) on a mutually-agreed timeline,” he maintained.

“We noted that ASEAN member-states and China had agreed on a Single Draft COC Negotiating Text,” Lee pointed out.

In this regard, Lee emphasized the need for maintaining an environment conducive to COC negotiations.

“We stressed the importance of undertaking confidence-building and preventive measures to enhance, among others, trust and confidence amongst parties,” the prime minister said.

Sovereignty protected

Foreign affairs chief Teodoro Locsin Jr., who was part of the presidential delegation to Singapore, reiterated the Philippines’ strong position against giving up even an “inch or iota” of its sovereignty.

Locsin was mum on Duterte’s earlier remarks that China is already in possession of some areas not its own in the South China Sea.

Asked about reactions to ASEAN’s or Duterte’s call for restraint, Locsin said China for one did not say anything.

“But the President was very clear: Let’s exercise restraint and there was no response, which is you can interpret it as you want but it was rather bold of our President to bring it up. The use of the word restraint,” Locsin said.

Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo, for his part, welcomed the formal announcement of the designation of the Philippines as the new country coordinator for the ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations.

“With the President’s pragmatic, transparent and diplomatic orientation in his foreign policies, our country’s designation will significantly play a pivotal role in bridging a more solid partnership between ASEAN and China,” Panelo said.

He also lashed out at critics for questioning Duterte’s move to consult China on the creation of the COC.

“He is the one irresponsible because he is not even understanding what the President was saying,” Panelo said, referring to Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, an opposition lawmaker.

“What the President was saying is he wants to know exactly the sentiments of China so he can relay them to the members of the ASEAN because he is supposed to be the coordinator,” Panelo said.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) warned Duterte is dragging the country to a potential armed conflict between the US and China.

“His double-sided betrayal of the country’s national sovereignty puts the country at great risk of getting caught right in between a likely outbreak of armed hostilities between the American and Chinese imperialists,” CPP said.

“Duterte’s shameless subservience to the US, sell-out of Philippine sovereignty to China and inability to pursue a policy of active peace has led to his failure to oppose the militarization of the SCS by both powers.”




China advances ‘code of conduct’ for South China Sea

November 14, 2018

China’s premier has hailed progress on an agreement that would “ensure peace and stability” in the strategic sea. Beijing has continued to fill a void as US influence in the region wanes under Donald Trump.

Chinese warships in the western Pacific

Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang on Wednesday said Beijing and countries with stakes in the South China Sea are closer than ever before to a “code of conduct” for the strategic thoroughfare.

Ahead of a meeting between China and the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Li said the recent adoption of a draft text for the pact was a major breakthrough.

“The single draft negotiating text is not merely a technical term, but an indication that China and ASEAN have reached consensus on ensure peace and stability, freedom of overflight and navigation in the South China Sea,” Li said. “We have found the way to properly manage and defuse differences.”

Filipino protesters set fire to a Chinese flagTensions in some ASEAN countries, such as the Philippines, have prompted protests against Chinese military maneuvers in the South China Sea


While China maintains it has a historical right over the South China Sea, ASEAN members such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei also claim land features in the area.

In 2016, an international tribunal found in favor of the Philippines in a territorial complaint, saying China had no historical rights to resources within its so-called “nine-dash line.” The ruling further strained relations between Beijing and Manila.

Since then, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has attempted to defuse tensions, in part to attract infrastructure funding and increased trade and investment from Beijing. Duterte said on Wednesday that ASEAN countries have seen significant progress in relations with China.

“Everything’s been excellent between China and the rest of ASEAN except for the fact that there’s friction between the Western nations and China,” Duterte said.

Read more: Southeast Asian nations ‘want to control China’s behavior’

Map showing China's demarcation of South China Sea territory

Peace via free trade

Earlier this week, Chinese Premier Li noted that Beijing will continue to push for free trade in the region at a moment when ASEAN leaders have started to sound the alarm about US protectionist policies.

“Free trade has, in some aspects, prevented war effectively,” Li said in a speech on Tuesday in Singapore. “We are willing to negotiate with all sides to push ahead with free trade internationally, and we’re also willing to discuss a fairer system.”

Li is expected to rally support this week for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade accord that would comprise more than a third of the world gross domestic product (GDP).

Beijing has stepped in to fill the void left when US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). China hopes to secure its own version by 2019.

ls/rt (AP, dpa)


Philippines: Duterte to reiterate ‘principled position’ on South China Sea at ASEAN Summit

November 13, 2018

President Rodrigo Duterte will reiterate the Philippines’ “principled position” on the South China Sea issue, Malacañang said Tuesday, ahead of the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and meetings with leaders of powerhouse nations in the Asia Pacific in Singapore.

Duterte will participate in the ASEAN plenary session later Tuesday and the 10-member regional bloc’s separate engagements with its dialogue partners including China, Russia, Japan and the United States set for Wednesday and Thursday.

Image result for south china sea, maps

“The President will reiterate the Philippines’ principled positions on matters concerning the South China Sea and transnational and transboundary issues such as terrorism, violent extremism, trafficking in persons, illicit drugs and disaster risk reduction and management,” Malacañang said in a statement.

The Palace did not elaborate on the points to be tackled by Duterte about the tensions in the South China Sea as Beijing continued to face scrutiny over its reported deployment of military aircraft and installation of anti-ship cruise missiles, surface-to-air missile systems and weather observation facilities on Manila-claimed reefs.

Duterte has chosen to seek stronger economic and trade ties with China, the world’s second biggest economy, instead of flaunting Manila’s victory over Beijing in the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2016 which declared as illegal China’s claim over nearly the entire South China Sea.

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The President, however, promised to raise the ruling with China during his term which ends in June 2022.

ASEAN and China are still negotiating for a code of conduct in the disputed waterway, a process Chinese Premier Li Keqiang hoped would be completed in three years, and that such a deal would bolster free trade.

During the summits, the Palace said the Philippines is also looking forward to “exchanging views on ASEAN community-building as well as discussions on regional and global developments that impact regional peace, security and stability.”

After Singapore, Duterte will fly to Papua New Guinea to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea for the 19th Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting on November 17 to 18.

At APEC, the Palace said the President will work with the leaders of the 21-nation grouping to affirm the multilateral trading system and uphold the role of APEC as the forum for addressing issues, leveraging on the region’s economic growth and pursuing open markets.

Duterte will also rally support for micro, small and medium enterprises through continued development and facilitating their access to the global marketplace.

The President will also meet with the Filipino community in Papua New Guinea.

“In the Philippines’ engagements with ASEAN and APEC, the President will continue to strive to pursue goals and aspirations shared with stakeholders in the region and beyond to secure for our peoples a better quality of life, and for our nations, a more productive partnership,” Malacañang said. — Virgil Lopez/RSJ, GMA News

Philippines President to reaffirm the Philippines’ stand on the South China Sea — “Non-militarization” — “Self-restraint” — “Subservient to China”

November 13, 2018

In his forthcoming meeting with other Southeast Asian leaders, President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to reaffirm the Philippines’ stand on the South China Sea.

In a statement released Monday, Malacañang said the president would engage leaders of ASEAN dialogue partners to “further enrich partnership in key areas of cooperation.”

“The President will reiterate the Philippines’ principled positions on matters concerning the South China Sea and transnational and transboundary issues such as terrorism, violent extremism, trafficking in persons, illicit drugs and disaster risk reduction and management,” Malacañang said.

In this November 6 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte holds a Cabinet meeting at Malacañang Palace. The president will be attending the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Singapore this week.

STAR/Joven Cagande


Duterte arrived in Singapore on Monday evening to attend the 33rd ASEAN Summit and Related Summits from November 12 to 15.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and United States Vice President Mike Pence will also attend the ASEAN summit in Singapore.

During the ASEAN summit in Manila last year, the 10-nation regional bloc and China have agreed to start the negotiations for the text of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

China and several ASEAN member-states, including the Philippines, have overlapping claims in the disputed waterway.

In July 2016, The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration issued a landmark ruling invalidating Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

The ASEAN, under Philippine chairmanship in 2017, made no mention of China’s expansive island-building activities in the contested waterway.

The chairman statement merely emphasized “non-militarization” and “self-restraint” among claimant states.


Bolton says U.S. objects to China’s military steps in South China Sea

November 13, 2018

The United States objects to China’s unilateral military steps in the South China Sea and the pace of U.S. freedom of navigation operations in the disputed waterway has increased, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Tuesday.

He said also that U.S. President Donald Trump was prepared to hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The comments came after the release of a report detailing undeclared missile sites in the North that had been undergoing maintenance.

Bolton was speaking to reporters in Singapore on the sidelines of meetings this week between the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and external partners, including the United States and China.

Reporting by John Geddie, writing by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

Calls for open trade to greet Pence as Trump skips Asia summit

November 11, 2018

Asia-Pacific leaders will join the heads of Southeast Asian states this week in Singapore to renew calls for multilateralism and fresh pledges to resolve regional conflicts ranging from the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar to tensions in the South China Sea.

Notably absent when regional powers such as China, Japan and India seek to enlist support for a multilateral trading system will be U.S. President Donald Trump, whose decision to skip the Asia summit has raised questions about his commitment to a regional strategy aimed at checking China’s rise.

Vice President Mike Pence will attend instead of Trump, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are among those expected to join leaders from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Image result for mike pence, photos

Mike Pence

Li is expected to rally support for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact now being negotiated, showcased to be the free trade deal that will encompass more than a third of the world’s GDP.

The pact includes 16 countries, including China, India, Japan and South Korea, but not the United States.

Trump has demanded trade agreements that are fair and enforceable and based on the principle of reciprocity. He has re-negotiated an existing pact with South Korea and the three-way deal with Mexico and Canada, and pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which involved four Southeast Asian states.

The United States is also in the midst of a bitter trade war with China which has undermined global markets.

China is pushing the RCEP deal – Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong told reporters on Thursday it “will be of great significance for deepening regional cooperation, coping with unilateralism and protectionism, and promoting an open, inclusive and rules-based international trading system.”

However, Li is expected to appeal in Singapore for the need for the world’s two largest economies to work together to resolve trade disputes, reiterating commitment made by Beijing’s top leaders last week for market opening and lowering tariffs.

It was not clear if Li and Pence will hold separate talks on the sidelines of the Singapore meetings, which would be a prelude to a summit scheduled between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the end of the month in Buenos Aires.

The encounter, if it happens, would come on the heels of high-level talks in Washington where the two sides aired their main differences but appeared to attempt controlling the damage to relations that has worsened with tit-for-tat tariffs in recent months.

Many of the leaders in Singapore will also meet at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Papua New Guinea next weekend.

ASEAN, which will hold its own summit on Tuesday before being joined by other leaders, also faces the challenge of working through sharp differences over the handling of the Rohingya minority by Myanmar whose military has been accused of “genocidal intent” by the United Nations.

Leader Aung San Suu Kyi is due to attend the Singapore meetings this week while Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, attending his first multilateral summit since returning to power in May, has served notice he has lost faith in the Nobel peace laureate over the issue.

The Rohingya crisis is one of the biggest man-made disasters involving a member since ASEAN was founded in 1967, and it is one of the thorniest issues yet faced by a group that traditionally works by consensus.

Many diplomats and rights activists say ASEAN’s credibility is at risk if it fails to tackle the matter head-on.

At the meetings, ASEAN and China will try to make headway in negotiations for a code of conduct for the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety while ASEAN members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts of the area. Taiwan is also a claimant.

But an agreement is unlikely to be announced.

Also, ASEAN members states may announce the successful conclusion of agreements with Russia and the United States on cooperating on cyber security.

Reporting by Jack Kim; additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Roberta Rampton in Washington