Published: Mon, November 13, 2017
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

China, Vietnam leaders reach South China Sea 'consensus'

China, Vietnam leaders reach South China Sea 'consensus'

The Chinese premier, who will be here for the ASEAN and East Asia summits, said Beijing will actively explore joint development of the South China sea to make it a "sea of cooperation and friendship" for the benefit of the two countries.

Speaking to his Vietnamese counterpart, Tran Dai Quang in Hanoi, Trump said he could employ his diplomatic skills to help Asian nations come to an agreement over competing maritime claims. "I am a very good mediator", Trump said on his own state visit to Hanoi at the tail end of his marathon tour of Asia.

President Quang said Vietnam believed in handling disputes on the South China Sea through peaceful negotiations and on the basis of worldwide laws - which Vietnam says nullify China's claims.

He also said North Korea "continues to be a problem" and that he was hopeful that Chinese President Xi Jinping would "be a tremendous help".

Trump also lashed out at all the "haters and fools" who he said need to realize that "having a good relationship with Russian Federation is a good thing".

Vietnam and the U.S. have grown increasingly close in recent years as both countries fear Chinese ambitions in the South China Sea. "I want to solve North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, terrorism, and Russian Federation can greatly help!"

From Vietnam, Trump flies to the Philippines for a meeting with ASEAN leaders before he heads back to Washington. He added that the two need to "jointly uphold peace and stability" in the region.

The long-simmering disputes are one issue where the two major powers' influence, focus and military might have been gauged, with the USA and China both calling for a peaceful resolution but taking contrasting positions in most other aspects of the conflict.

Tensions in the contested waters have ratcheted up since 2014 as China has turned sandbars into islands, equipping them with airfields, ports and weapons systems and warned United States warships and aircraft to stay away from them. However, several ASEAN member countries including Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei have counter claims.

He said that Trump and Xi had discussed ways to "prevent mishaps, misunderstandings and miscalculations" in the vital seaway. At $32 billion a year ago, it was the sixth largest with the United States, though less than a tenth the size of China's.

"(US) Foreign policy in Asia has had its oxygen sucked out the room", he said. "The South China Sea is better left untouched, nobody can afford to go to war. For China, this is their time". China bridled against interference by outside countries.

China has built artificial islands and airstrips capable of hosting military installations in the sea, which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits.

It's claims are based on its traditional "nine-dash line" - waters that extend hundreds of miles to the south and east of its island province of Hainan, abut its neighbors' claims and, in some cases, encroach upon them.

Cayetano also assured that relations between Manila and Beijing "are going well".

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