Tue, Nov 14, 2017 - Page 1 News List

S China Sea statement, no Rohingya at ASEAN

Reuters, MANILA

Riot police and protesters clash as they try to march to the ASEAN summit venue in Manila yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Southeast Asian nations said they do not take a relative calm in the dispute over the South China Sea for granted, a draft of a statement to be issued during the ASEAN summit said.

The statement is to be issued after the meeting between China and the 10-member bloc in Manila, a diplomatic source said.

“While the situation is calmer now, we cannot take the current progress for granted,” the draft said. “Important that we cooperate to maintain peace, stability, freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the SCS [South China Sea] in accordance with international law. It is in our collective interest to avoid miscalculations that could lead to escalation of tensions.”

At the summit’s formal opening yesterday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made no mention of the South China Sea and pointed to other triggers for a threat of violence in the region.

“Terrorism and violent extremism endanger the peace, stability and security of our region, because these threats know no boundary,” he said.

“The other hotheads would like us to confront China and the rest of the world on so many issues,” he added. “The South China Sea is better left untouched.”

On Sunday, Vietnamese state television said that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) had told Vietnamese General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong he wanted to work with Southeast Asian nations on a code of conduct in the sea.

Xinhua news agency said China and Vietnam had agreed to properly handle maritime issues and strive to maintain peace and stability.

Meanwhile, ASEAN leaders yesterday skirted around the mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims triggered by Myanmar’s military crackdown, disappointing human rights groups who were hoping for a tough stand on the humanitarian crisis.

There was no pressure either from US President Donald Trump over the Philippines’ bloody war on drugs during a meeting on the sidelines of the summit with Duterte.

A draft of the statement made no mention of the flight of Rohingya from military operations in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

One paragraph fleetingly mentioned the importance of humanitarian relief for “affected communities” in Rakhine.

The statement was drawn up by the Philippines, current chair of the ASEAN, which includes Myanmar.

It did not use the term Rohingya for the persecuted Muslim minority, which Burmese State Councillor Aung San Suu Kyi has asked foreign leaders to avoid.

The summit also saw a warming of relations between Trump and Duterte, who on Saturday met for the first time in Vietnam.

On Sunday, Duterte crooned the hit Philippine love song Ikaw (“You”) at a gala dinner in Manila, saying it was on “the orders” of Trump.

One of the song’s verses begins: “You are the light in my world, a half of this heart of mine.”

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