Philippines Says Trump Called Duterte to Affirm Alliance

Posted May 03, 2017

Southeast Asian leaders wrapped up a summit on Saturday with no indication of an agreement on how to address Beijing's assertiveness in the South China Sea, a divisive issue in a region uncertain about its ties with the United States.

Despite four of the ten members having serious issues with Beijing over the South China Sea, the statement released was, as an Indonesian senior diplomat bluntly put, "soft".

"Yes, I said I agree".

It also did not mention the abiding by "universally recognized principles of worldwide law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea" that was in the draft statement.

Duterte has said the Philippines and other nations are helpless to stop the island-building, so there is no point challenging China in diplomatic and legal circles.

Aquino also filed the case at the worldwide tribunal.

Previous year the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that China has no legal claims on most areas of the South China Sea (after the Philippines successfully filed for arbitration).

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signs a guest book while visiting China's missile destroyer Changchun, in Davao City, the Philippines, May 1, 2017.

Hence, through its nine-dash line, China continues to claim that over 80 percent of the sea is part of the nation's "historically traditional fishing grounds".

China is not a member of the 10-member bloc and did not attend the summit, but is extremely sensitive about the content of its statements.

He ignored last year's worldwide ruling outlawing China's sweeping claims to the key waterway.

In a speech earlier in the day at the summit opening, Duterte made an oblique swipe at Western governments, asking them not to meddle in the affairs of regional countries. "We know that we are playing with somebody who relishes letting go of his missiles and everything", he said.

The summit - the first of two meetings this year among leaders of ASEAN, which includes Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar - is being held under tight security in Manila.

The statement also noted that Asean nations "do not have a clear reading of the U.S.'s foreign policy" toward the region, and that the world was "undergoing an important period of shifting power relations". Conversely, the Philippines can be considered losers because its triumph in the Arbitral Tribunal has been effectively blunted-although that loss is actually self-inflicted.

Thus, with the U.S. expected to stay away from the South China Sea issue, while China is ready to invest heavily in the economies of ASEAN member nations, we expect China to remain committed to its nine-dash line and few regional leaders will dare to ventilate criticism.

Trump has wrecked Asian unity by cancelling USA participation in the TransPacific Partnership, the 12-nation trade pact negotiated by his predecessor, whose main if unspoken aim was to keep China out of it.

While it did not provide details on when or if Duterte would visit the White House, it said Trump is looking forward to his Philippines trip in November.