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China premier says will protect South China Sea freedom of navigation

It will be the first meeting between the two leaders following a proposal to have a quadrilateral alliance among India the US Japan and Australia

The South China Sea was discussed in Beijing on an earlier leg of Trump's 12-day Asian tour and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States and China had a frank exchange of views. In July, Vietnam had to suspend an oil and gas exploration project conducted by Spain's Repsol company, under apparent pressure from China.

The agreement came at a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong in Hanoi. Its claims are contested by Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei.

China claims to control most of the South China Sea.

China and Vietnam have reached a consensus on appropriately handling the contested South China Sea.

There have been two armed conflicts between China and Vietnam in the sea - brief clashes in 1974 and 1988 that claimed the lives of dozens of Vienamese troops.

"If I can help mediate or arbitrate, please let me know..." If I can help in any way, I'm a very good mediator and a very good arbitrator.

And China, which has long insisted the United States has no role to play in the dispute, spoke out against what it deemed foreign interference.

He said wrapping up negotiations on the code will prove Asean and China's commitment to resolve overlapping claims in the disputed waters.

The statement will be issued after a meeting later between China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the Philippines capital, a diplomatic source said.

"China's greatest hope is for peace and stability in the South China Sea", Li told ASEAN leaders in Manila.

Donald Trump arrives in Vietnam.

China will firmly safeguard freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, Premier Li Keqiang said on Tuesday at a regional summit in Manila, state news agency Xinhua reported.

China initially agreed in 2002 to begin talks on a code, but delayed doing so while carrying out its expansionist strategy.

Signing China up to a legally binding and enforceable code for the strategic waterway has always been a goal for claimant members of ASEAN, some of which have sparred for years over what they see as China's disregard for their sovereign rights and its blocking of fishermen and energy exploration efforts.

According to the global tribunal in The Hague, China's historical claims have no legal basis, and some of the features it is claiming fall within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Following Manila's complaint to a United Nations-backed tribunal, the panel ruled a year ago that China's territorial claims in the sea were without legal basis.

Duterte took steps to thaw frosty relations with China after he won the presidency a year ago.

He instead chose to build closer ties in return for billions of dollars in investments and aid. But he said his tactics had eased tensions and opened the door to dialogue.