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South China Sea dominates ASEAN-China Summit

Rufina Vignone | 09 Settembre, 2016, 10:32

Malcolm Turnbull says there is now "cautious optimism" that a code of conduct can be reached in the hotly disputed region of the South China Sea, despite the unsafe flashpoint overshadowing a regional meeting of Asian leaders in Laos.

The use of the phrase "some leaders" in the two statements underscores the fundamental problem ASEAN has in dealing with China - not all its members are willing to scold Beijing. "We stressed the importance of the full and effective implementation of the DOC in its entirety", read the document. His comments came after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang appeared to warn the U.S.to stay out of the dispute by saying his country wanted to work with other regional nations to "dispel interference".

The pictures were released at a time when the Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang and the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte were in Laos to attend the ASEAN summit.

China pulled out all the stops to block any reference to the words "recent activities", "serious concern", "reclamation", "militarization", "loss of trust" and "need to respect legal processes", but failed as all these phrases made it into the statement, said a senior USA administration official who requested anonymity to discuss diplomatic discussions.

The statement will also emphasise the importance of maintaining peace in the South China Sea, the other major regional flashpoint.

Hua said China hopes for positive, genuine and constructive efforts from the USA to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea region.

The Chinese embassy in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, admitted on Wednesday (7 September) that the country had stationed several of its patrol ships and fishing boats in the waters around the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, but insisted that they had not undertaken any dredging or construction activities there.

However the Philippines released photos on Wednesday it said showed renewed Chinese island-building activity, in a deliberate move to throw the issue into the spotlight.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei all have conflicting claims over territory in the region.

The Philippines is concerned that China may plan to turn the shoal into another man-made island.

The other ASEAN nations are Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand.

Mr Turnbull, in discussions he said would be diplomatic but frank, concurred: "What we seek is that the rulings of worldwide tribunals, including this one, are respected".

According to those reports, the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has signalled he is prepared to hold talks with China to settle the dispute and he has asked the former president Fidel Ramos to hold "backchannel talks" with Chinese officials.

Analysts say the Scarborough Shoal could be a strategic foothold for China.

The statement will be issued at the end of the summit between ASEAN and China on Wednesday, a meeting that will also commemorate the 25th anniversary of dialogue relations between the two sides.

Speaking at a news conference in Laos on Thursday, Obama says he continues to believe Trump isn't qualified to be president and that "every time he speaks, that opinion is confirmed".

"Noting the enormous potential of the RCEP to foster global and regional trade and growth, we urged our experts to redouble efforts toward achieving a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement", the draft statement said.

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