Duterte tells Asean, China: Solve sea row peacefully

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Duterte (third from right) shakes hands with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (left) in front of Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith (second from left), Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (second from right) and Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah at the 19th ASEAN-China Summit. AFP PHOTOS

Duterte (third from right) shakes hands with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (left) in front of Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith (second from left), Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (second from right) and Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah at the 19th ASEAN-China Summit. AFP PHOTOS

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte called on members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China to resolve disputes over the South China Sea in a peaceful manner, an official said on Wednesday.

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Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said Asean leaders raised the South China Sea issue during the Asean-China meeting on Wednesday.

“It was voluntarily raised by the different heads of state. They have their own different positions but the most common position is to work on mutual trust and confidence building, and work on the common goals of the Asean,” Andanar told reporters in a news conference in Vientiane, Laos, which is hosting this year’s Asean summits.

But there was no mention of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s July 12 ruling that invalidated China’s claims to most of the South China Sea, including areas covered by the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

Nonetheless, President Duterte, Andanar said, stressed the importance of adhering to the rule of law.

“International disputes should inspire us to work together with adherence to the rule of law and international governing bodies, put words into actions, and be on the side of peace,” Andanar said.

Andanar also summarized the statements made by regional leaders during the Asean-China meeting.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, he said, underscored the importance of China’s contribution to the regional bloc as well as mutual trust among nations.

Andanar said the Chinese premier also mentioned that the South China Sea issue “should not represent the main relations” between China and Asean.

Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore also raised the South China Sea issue during the meeting.

Andanar cited Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s statement on the need for maritime cooperation, and that the South China Sea issue should not be allowed to be the platform for “power projection.”

For Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, the South China Sea issue should be dealt with in a multi-faceted character and should be handled constructively, Andanar said.

Aung Sang Suu Kyi, Andanar said, highlighted the importance of “people-to-people” relations between Asean and China.

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pointed out that the South China Sea issue could be turned into the region’s advantage by placing importance on “common goals,” Andanar said.

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