US Voices Opposition to China's Military Steps in South China Sea

15 November, 2018, 09:12 | Author: Orlando Hughes
  • Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah speaks to Malay Mail at Wisma Putra in Putrajaya

In a speech in Singapore on Tuesday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said that he hoped that the RCEP talks would be completed next year.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), covering half the world's population, is billed as an antidote to Donald Trump's "America First" agenda, which has seen tariffs imposed on nearly half of all Chinese imports to the USA - and retaliatory levies by Beijing.

"With the headwind of trade protectionism, free trade is facing some difficulties", Mr Li said.

Mahathir, a veteran strongman of the region who in May returned to the prime minister's office he had occupied for 22 years, told reporters that the United States is "a colonial power" that uses "economic pressure to cow people".

- The annual gathering of Southeast Asian leaders began Tuesday with a warning from the host, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, about threats against worldwide rules that underpin world stability and economic growth.

"The existing free, open and rules-based multilateral system which has underpinned ASEAN's growth and stability has come under stress", he said, adding that it was unclear if the global order would break up into rival blocs.

Inward-looking, protectionist policies have gained ground in ASEAN as elsewhere, he said.

Known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the trade deal would cover nearly half the world's population.

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"Free trade has, in some aspects, prevented war effectively", he said in a speech on Tuesday.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday urged China and other South China Sea terroritorial claimants to exercise "self-restraint" and refrain from actions that will escalate tensions in the contested region.

"This is the first time the USA has indicated it believes the YJ-12s and HQ-9s China deployed to Spratlys in May are still there, not just a temporary deployment for exercises", Gregory Poling, director of Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), said on Twitter.

The potential damage to global trade caused by U.S. President Donald Trump's tariff battle with Beijing is looming as leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, the U.S. and other regional economies meet in Singapore this week.

"We have found the way to properly manage and defuse differences, for example, on the issue of the South China Sea in the past years", Li said.

China and Asean already have a non-binding "declaration" for the waterway but are working towards a more robust agreement. He reiterated Beijing's hope to have a final agreement within three years. For years, they have been discussing a pact to prevent an escalation of disputes.

In hand with the trade agreements were also initiatives to strengthen cooperation in various other areas, such as education, where both sides agreed to start discussions for a bilateral agreement to facilitate internships between university students from both countries.

Duterte is also creating some concern for comments he made before meeting with the Chinese Premier, which seem to indicate that his administration will defer to China on how the Philippines should conduct affairs in the South China Sea.


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