President Donald Trump's nominee for United States ambassador to China continued the administration's tough line on China's development of "artificial islands" in the South China Sea on Tuesday - but there's still no concrete plan to back it up. "We can have joint exercises here in Mindanao, maybe in the Sulu Sea", Duterte said.
"For Trump to celebrate somebody who boasts of killing his own citizens, and then invite him to the White House while remaining silent on his disgusting human rights record, sends a awful message", said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, told The Washington Post.
"We took note of concerns expressed by some leaders over recent developments in the area", said the 25-page statement without any mention of what these were, which countries were responsible, and which heads of state raised them.
Duterte, who previous year put aside a legal challenge to Beijing's sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea to start negotiating billions of dollars worth of loans and infrastructure investments, chaired the latest summit of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Manila.
An Asean statement, released on Sunday following an annual summit of the bloc's leaders and foreign ministers in Manila, omitted any references to China's "militarization" of the waterway-wording that Cambodia is said to have unsuccessfully lobbied to remove from last year's statement.
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".
He said the visit to the warship was part of the confidence building and goodwill between Manila and Beijing.
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According to the statement, ASEAN leaders noticed improvements in cooperation between ASEAN and China, and welcomed progress on a framework for the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) to be completed mid-2017. Duterte has essentially set the court's favorable ruling aside, and has suggested at times that the Philippines can't hope to protect its island claims in the face of China's might. This is probably related to the fact that China is committed to invest heavily in several ASEAN member nations. It is said that Cambodia had blocked the original efforts at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia past year to mention the Arbitral Court ruling.
Human rights groups say official accounts are implausible and accuse Duterte of backing campaign of systematic extrajudicial killings by police.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte today visited Chinese warships docked in his home town, highlighting fast-warming relations despite competing claims in the South China Sea.
Diplomats said the reinclusion of the reference to land reclamation and militarisation meant that some Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries were not comfortable with "total acquiescence" to China.
"ASEAN needs to be strong and united in calling for North Korea to cease all provocative actions and return to the path of dialogue", Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said. "We respected the Philippines' views and cooperated ..."
"China can not be allowed to use its artificial islands to coerce its neighbors or limit freedom of navigation or overflight", Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad said at his Senate confirmation hearing.