Trump seeks to strike diplomatic balance with Philippines' Duterte

Posted November 13, 2017

In a joint news conference, Quang said he had "shared my thoughts with (Trump) on the recent developments in this area and it is our policy to settle disputes in the South China Sea through peaceful negotiations, and with respect for diplomatic and legal process in accordance with worldwide law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea".

USA president Donald Trump (L) and Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte with wife Cielito Avancena during a photo session at a dinner marking the 50th birthday of ASEAN, on the eve of the 12th East Asia Summit.

A series of protests against Trump took place this week prior to the USA president's arrival today to meet Southeast Asian leaders and attend the Asean Summit in the final leg of his five-country Asia trip.

Before his arrival, Trump had met with President Rodrigo Duterte on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in Danang, Vietnam.

"If I can help mediate or arbitrate, please let me know..."

"I believe in our intel agencies", he said, alongside Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang.

Duterte and Trump will likely talk about the North Korean threat and the overall security situation in the region, particularly the South China Sea dispute.

The controversial issue was also understood to have figured in a meeting of officials from India, the US, Japan, and Australia under the proposed Quadrilateral coalition of the four countries.

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Trump is expected to arrive on Sunday.

"I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem", Trump said, not mentioning the thousands killed and worldwide scorn.

Duterte said earlier in the week that he planned to ask China to make clear its intentions in the South China Sea.

It will be the last leg of a marathon Asia tour that, despite Trump's "America First" policy, may reassure some that his administration remains committed to a region that Beijing sees as its strategic domain.

Since coming to office 16 months ago, the firebrand leader has been conciliatory to Beijing, despite a ruling by an global arbitration court favoring the Philippines in its territorial dispute with China. The DOC 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.

Those comments angered human rights organizations, who see Trump's meeting with Duterte as validation from the United States that the controversial President's crackdown on drug use in the Philippines is acceptable.

Leaders at the Philippines summit will discuss the South China Sea, but mainly to agree on a procedural step to cool tensions.

"China is to work with ASEAN countries to maintain peace and stability, as well as development and prosperity in the South China Sea region", Xi Jinping said at the leaders' meeting on Sunday. The country claims a huge swathe of the South China Sea.