Philippines' Duterte skipped Asean meetings to take 'power naps'

Minnie Murray
November 15, 2018

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 worldwide trading system". "That's a reality and America and everybody should realize that they are there", he added.

"AMTI and others have been unable to confirm that since China presumably kept them in shelters", he said.

World leaders will push for the rapid completion of a massive, China-backed trade deal that excludes the U.S. at a summit this week, in a rebuke to rising protectionism and Donald Trump's "America First" agenda.

It was not clear if Li and Pence would meet separately on the sidelines in Singapore, 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.

Aaron Connelly, an expert on Southeast Asian politics at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the fact that RCEP negotiations were not concluded at this year's ASEAN could indicate China has some way to go to convince neighbours to sign up. "So why do you have to create frictions, strong military activity that will prompt a response from China?" he said.

China is pitted against its smaller neighbors in multiple disputes in the sea over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves.

Mahathir, whose own country has a Muslim majority, said that as a former political detainee, Suu Kyi should show more compassion.

The Singaporean leader said his country will join hands with China to build the new corridor so as to facilitate transport and trade between the two sides.

It also reaffirmed a shared commitment to "maintaining and promoting peace, security and stability in the region".

China claims most of the South China Sea, where US$3 trillion (S$4.1 trillion) in sea-borne traffic pass every year.

The US' increasing diplomatic assertiveness is partly driven by deepening frustrations over the prolonged negotiations of a code of conduct, a process that formally began nearly two decades ago without any major breakthrough to date. "We are committed to work with all concerned parties in the substantive negotiations and early conclusion of an effective code of conduct".

He has also ordered the Philippine military to scale down its joint exercises with USA forces and to avoid holding these near waters China is claiming, again in deference to Beijing's position.

The Philippines, China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam, and Taiwan have overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

The United States wants Beijing to withdraw its missiles from the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, US officials announced during talks at the state department.

Meanwhile, Duterte said that he will do his best to usher in the completion of the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea.

During the talks, however, China controversially proposed that Southeast Asian states must cease naval exercises and military cooperation with external powers, particularly the USA and Japan, in the South China Sea.

Despite Beijing's blatant efforts to militarize land features across the South China Sea, Li Keqiang claims that Beijing has no intention of seeking "hegemony or expansion".

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