Duterte, ASEAN leaders pull back from South China Sea dispute

The improving relationship between the United States of America and China only makes it more appealing for ASEAN nations not to offend China regarding the South China Sea issue.

The issue of North Korea took centre stage at the Summit held in Metro Manila.

The Chinese embassy in Manila could not be reached for any comment in this regard. But concerns remain on "developments" still taking place in the hotly contested maritime area.

China has reacted angrily to individual members of the regional bloc expressing their concern about its rapid reclamation of reefs in the Spratlys islands and its installation of missile systems on them.

According to some experts, China is now capable of deploying combat aircraft on several of its man-made features.

Unfazed by worldwide criticisms of his all-out war against hard drug trafficking in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday urged leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to work together towards a drug-free ASEAN.

"Yeah. None that we know of", Patron told reporters in a press briefing.

Duterte was elected previous year largely on a law-and-order platform in which he promised to eradicate illegal drugs in the Philippines by killing tens of thousands of people.

Filipino diplomats said the phrase was important because "legal and diplomatic processes" encompassed the entire process of the filing of the case in the tribunal until its resolution.

"This reflects the Cambodianisation of Philippine foreign policy". For example, China pledged Dollars $15 billion in investment in the Philippines and financing for 15 infrastructure projects, including two railways, a hydroelectric dam and an irrigation system.

Patron's statement came after the official Asean chairman's message made no mention about the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration's decision on the resource-rich South China Sea, and China's continuing reclamation and militarization activities in the disputed island.

He also denied that China attempted to influence the Asean heads of states to ensure that the worldwide court's ruling invalidating its "historic rights" to the South China Sea and the non-reclamation and non-militarization activities would be removed from the joint statement.

Underlining Beijing's sensitivity about the arbitration award, two diplomatic sources on Saturday said Chinese embassy officials had lobbied behind the scenes for that sentence to be dropped, and considered it a veiled reference to the ruling.

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned Southeast Asian leaders Saturday they were facing a "massive" illegal drug menace that could destroy their societies, as he called for a united response.

Meanwhile, the leaders also discussed other regional security issues, such as terrorism and violent extremism, as well as North Korea, which conducted a failed ballistic missile launch on Saturday.

"The relevant situation at this ASEAN summit again fully shows the positive changes in the South China Sea situation and that the joint wish of countries in this region is to seek stability, promote cooperation and seek development, and this should be respected and supported by all sides".

Main points of 2017 Chairman's Statement on regional and worldwide issues.

They said four Asean members wanted it retained, and that there were hot debates on the issue.

Earlier, the host country's President, Rodrigo Duterte had also expressed his concern saying that Asean was anxious over the North Korean issue.

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