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Philippines' Duterte gives China free pass over sea row

Philippines' Duterte gives China free pass over sea row

MANILA- The Philippines can not afford another falling out with China due to the South China Sea row if President Rodrigo Duterte really wants to purse his economic agenda, an analyst said Sunday.

The document said ASEAN leaders took note of the improving cooperation between ASEAN and China, and welcomed the progress to complete a framework of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) by mid-2017 in order to facilitate the early conclusion of an effective COC.

"It can't be seen that Asean has totally given in to Chinese pressure", one diplomat was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying.

China has dismissed and ignored last July's arbitration ruling, which invalidated most of its historic claims to nearly all of the South China Sea.

Albert del Rosario, who was Philippines Foreign Secretary under Duterte's predecessor Benigno Aquino from 2011 to 2016, also criticized the decision.

Who can say if tomorrow the Philippines won't be overwhelmed and annexed by China as an offshoot of its brazen exploits of land reclamation and military buildup in the South China Sea?

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) can wield more influence when it speaks with one voice on issues of concern, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said.

China and ASEAN member states Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, along with Taiwan, have overlapping claims to territory in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which billions of dollars in world trade passes each year. Taiwan is another claimant country.

MANILA Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday urged the United States to show restraint after North Korea's latest missile test and to avoid playing into the hands of leader Kim Jong Un, who "wants to end the world".The notoriously blunt Duterte said the Southeast Asia region was extremely anxious about tensions between the United States and North Korea, and said one misstep would be a "catastrophe" and Asia would be the first victim of a nuclear war.The United States, Japan, South Korea and China, he said, were sparring with a man who was excited about the prospect of firing missiles.Duterte is current chairman of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and was due to speak by telephone to U.S. President Donald Trump later on Saturday.

Japan, which has a separate territorial dispute with Beijing in the East China Sea, is closely watching how the South China Sea dispute is being handled amid uncertainties on U.S. President Donald Trump's Asia policy. During Obama's final months in office, the Philippine president moved to build closer economic ties with China and Russian Federation while repeatedly threatening to end his nation's longstanding military alliance with the U.S.

That call lasted just over seven minutes, Duterte's special advisor, Christopher Go, said.

"It behooves upon America, who wields the biggest stick, just to really be prudent and patient. But it is not impregnable", Duterte said.

The 72-year-old leader faces a mass murder complaint before the International Criminal Court and an impeachment bid at home as bodies continue to pile up in his drugs campaign.

Diplomats said the reinclusion of the reference to land reclamation and militarisation meant that some Asean countries were not comfortable with "total acquiescence" to China. That has helped ASEAN, founded a half-century ago, to become an unwieldy collective of dictatorships, authoritarian states and a monarchy, along with fledgling democracies.