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Trump lands in Philippines, offers to mediate on S.China Sea

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FILE Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks on urbanisation at a high-level conference co-organised by Friends of Europe

Trump's Asian tour comes as the USA rallies for tougher sanctions against North Korea's nuclear program and ballistic missile tests.

The territorial tensions in the South China Sea center on Beijing claiming virtually all of the sea to be its territorial waters, claims that have been vigorously disputed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

Manila: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said on Sunday the South China Sea dispute, involving China and five other claimants including the Philippines, was "better left untouched".

In Manila, Trump was scheduled to meet with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other East Asian nations.

With China's controversial military buildup likely to be a major issue at the ASEAN summit, Premier Li Keqiang today clearly reiterated Beijing's long- held position that it wants to bilaterally resolve its disputes with its neighbours over the South China Sea. "It can ill-afford a violent confrontation".

"Ladies and gentlemen, I sang an invited duet with Ms. Pilita Corrales upon the orders of the Commander-in-Chief of the United States", the Philippine president revealed.

While Duterte's relationship with the USA was strained under the Obama administration, ties have improved since Trump took office earlier this year.

"Trump is the CEO of the imperialist government of the U.S., said 18-year-old student Alexis Danday after the protesters were scattered".

"I used to do it personally just to show to the guys that if I can do it, so can you".

The increasing use of the phrase "Indo-Pacific" by Trump and his team during their Asian tour this week, instead of the more common "Asia-Pacific" term has been seen by analysts as an effort to depict the region as more than China-dominated.

Trump is in Vietnam for a state visit and to attend meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group.

China claims sovereignty over all of South China Sea, a huge source of hydrocarbons.

In August, foreign ministers of Southeast Asia and China adopted a negotiating framework for a code of conduct in the resource-rich waterway, a move they hailed as progress but one seen by critics as a tactic to buy China time to consolidate its power.

India has been supporting freedom of navigation and access to resources in the South China Sea in accordance with principles of global law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

US Navy ships have also carried out freedom of navigation patrols in the area, angering China, which says the territorial issues should be handled directly between countries in the region.

In meetings with Duterte, Trump will reportedly try to win over a leader who has expressed a strong anti-U.S. sentiment.

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