Duterte defends need to 'power nap' after summit no-shows

April FrancisNov 16, 2018

China noted that ASEAN-China relations have made good progress and appreciated Singapore's contributions as the coordinator for ASEAN-China dialogue relations.

The region already has a nonbinding "Declaration of Conduct" but is working toward a more robust agreement.

"There are no winners in a trade war", Li said before his meeting with the ASEAN leaders.

"I said China is already in possession".

China still refuses to acknowledge the July 12, 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, Netherlands, invalidating Beijing's sweeping claims to the South China Sea.

Duterte's absence sent rumors once again concerning the Philippine leader's health, although his spokesperson was quick to assure the public that the President "had a fruitful and productive participation" in yesterday's (November 14) activities and that he is "in top physical shape", said Salvador Panelo. Duterte told reporters when asked if he was in favor of holding military drills in the disputed waters.

US Vice President Mike Pence (R) and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang before the start of the 13th East Asia summit plenary session at the Asean summit in Singapore, November 15, 2018.

That meeting will be closely watched for progress on resolving the standoff over technology policy that has led the USA and China to impose billions of dollars of tariffs on each other's exports.

Both sides also reaffirmed their shared commitment to maintaining and promoting peace and security in the Southeast Asian region, and also agreed on the importance of free trade and making economic globalisation more open.

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Beijing had hoped to have the meat of the deal done by the end of this year, but the timetable has now slipped to 2019.

He has a record of skipping summit sessions - but he did not miss any when the Philippines chaired the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) a year ago.

Some ASEAN members and China have overlapping claims to islands in the sea, one of the world's busiest waterways.

There is thus growing suspicion across the region and beyond that China is using the code of conduct negotiations as diplomatic cover for its unilateral adjustment of the maritime status quo at the expense of smaller claimant states, as well as external powers such the U.S. which have enjoyed unimpeded access to the sea for the past seven decades.

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

Negotiations on the COC are expected to face delays because of China's negotiating strategy, which is to "deal with less powerful countries on a one-on-one basis" rather than allow ASEAN nations the benefit of collective bargaining, reports ABC-CBN.

Singapore also congratulated China on its achievements over the past 40 years of reform and opening up, and wished the Chinese people progress in China's development goals and continued peace, prosperity and stability.

But while Beijing's proposals were a deliberate bid to box out external powers from the South China Sea, Washington has made it clear that it won't sit by idly to China's efforts to dominate the strategic waters.

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