Recent developments surrounding the South China Sea

Violet Powell
November 15, 2017

Vietnam and China agreed Monday to avoid conflicts in the hotly contested South China Sea, as a new pathway to dialogue on easing tensions was opened with other Southeast Asian nations.

On Sunday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte suggested that, despite their differences, the leaders should not discuss the South China Sea.

"The South China Sea is better left untouched, nobody can afford to go to war".

Li made no mention of the South China Sea dispute, but said China was "committed to working with ASEAN to be good neighbors, good friends, and good partners and always stand together with ASEAN, rain or shine".

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang sealed the accord with the ASEAN leaders in Manila, according to China's state-run Xinhua news agency.

FILE PHOTO - Satellite photo shows Chinese-controlled Tree Island, part of the Paracel Islands group in the South China Sea, on October 12, 2017.

Trump told Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang that he was prepared to mediate between claimants to the South China Sea and said China's position was a problem.

The text of the China-Asean Declaration was released after the leaders of the 10-member Asean, led by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met earlier in the day in Manila.

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China in recent years has built artificial islands and increased its militarisation in the waters, drawing criticism from Washington, which argues that the United States has a national interest in freedom of navigation in sea lanes critical for world trade.

All the claimants were in attendance at the summit in the Philippines, except for Taiwan.

Xi spoke about the territorial rifts ahead of the ASEAN summit in the Philippines, which also includes the U.S., China and other global players.

In 2013, the Philippines filed an worldwide arbitration case against China, and scored victory three years later.

Duterte has grown closer to China since he took office previous year and Vietnam has emerged as Beijing's main challenger in the area. "They will not talk about it", Duterte said of China.

"We tried to put some structures in one of the sandbars near our island and the Chinese reacted", Lorenzana told a diplomatic forum in Manila, adding that Duterte later ordered, "Let's pull out".

Unlike China, the USA is not a claimant to the potentially oil-rich and busy waters, but it has declared it has a national interest in ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight and the peaceful resolution of the disputes. He has refused to immediately take up with China a ruling by a United Nations -linked tribunal that invalidated Beijing's sprawling claims in the South China Sea, sparking criticism from nationalists and left-wing groups that wanted him to demand Chinese compliance with the landmark decision immediately.

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