Duterte to 'skip' arbitral ruling during ASEAN summit

Duterte to 'skip' arbitral ruling during ASEAN summit
Duterte to 'skip' arbitral ruling during ASEAN summit
Author

30 April, 2017

"Everyone is now watching the Philippines, we expect China to send its message to Southeast Asian countries through Duterte", a former government official involved in foreign policy told Reuters.

He said: "They (China) really claim it as their own, even a long time ago".

That indicates a change in the sentiment on display in February past year when Obama became the first president to host the Asean leaders in the U.S.

A diplomat at the ASEAN secretariat said there was urgency from all parties to get the framework done this year, but ASEAN was taking "a leap of faith" with China and there were concerns about what the end result might be. The administration's strategy is to befriend China after six years of saber-rattling and deteriorating relationships, in order to secure investments, trade and tourism. When it became clear to Aquino and all the other hawks in the Philippines that the United States will not come to our aid in a conflict with China, Mutual Defense Treaty or no, the escalation option became void.

The Philippines Government has deployed more than 40,000 soldiers, policemen and security agents in Manila as the city readies to host Saturday a summit of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). China's artificial islands in disputed waters are now military outposts, complete with airstrips, radar stations and weapons system.

Militarization was also unmentioned in the draft of the Chairman's statement this year.

In the draft statement, there is no mention of the Hague ruling.

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Weeks earlier, Beijing was openly vexed when Duterte announced with bravado that he will visit and plant the Philippine flag in the hotly-disputed Thitu Island (Pag-asa to Filipinos), the second largest naturally-formed land feature in the Spratlys. "Please?'" Duterte said in explaining his decision to walk back his decision.

South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported Monday that South Korean naval ships will conduct training exercises with the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier the USS Carl Vinson, as tensions surrounding the Korean Peninsula continue to eclipse those in the South China Sea.

That has seen interest wane within Asean in taking a stronger stance against China, and puts USA influence in the bloc at risk of fading.

Abella said that the Philippine Senate had conducted an independent investigation into the charges hurled against Duterte by a self-confessed assassin, and senators found no proof of state-sponsored killings. In recent months, Lorenzana has been among the most outspoken advocates for more robust resistance against China's maritime ambitions, while emphasizing the importance of maintaining strong security cooperation with America.

Duterte, who took office in June, has taken steps to fix relations with China which had been damaged by the territorial conflict.

But Mr. Duterte has sought warmer ties with Beijing and maintained he will not raise just yet the arbitral award favoring Manila to Chinese President Xi Jinping.


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