ASEAN softens China stand as USA belatedly beckons

Presidential spokesman Ernie Abella said Trump mentioned he was looking forward to visiting the Philippines in November to attend an East Asia summit that Duterte will host with several world leaders and that Trump invited Duterte to visit the White House.

Duterte urged restraint from the United States and other countries involved in the tensions to avoid any miscalculation that could "cause catastrophe".

The pair have had a mixed relationship, with Mr Duterte - a maverick former mayor who, like Mr Trump, was elected a year ago on a wave of public disenchantment - having previously threatened to sever defence ties between the two allies.

Duterte was due to speak by telephone to U.S. President Donald Trump later on Saturday.

"I'm sure President Trump by now must also be cautioning his military to just maybe hang on and not to start something they can not control", Duterte said. It noted some leaders' concerns about "recent developments".

"[This is] to show that we are friends that is why I welcomed them here I was the one who asked [them to] "show me your warships", he added.

Opposition legislator Gary Alejano, a former military officer, said that in the ASEAN summit, "they (China) won by convincing Duterte not to include any statement about the (international) ruling".

The visit of three China wars ships coincided a day after the end of the ASEAN Summit in Manila where leaders are divided on the decision - whether or not to bring the Hague ruling on the South China Sea at the ASEAN meeting.

In addition, he said the issue of terrorism had also drew attention at the summit in which Malaysia said the country's contribution, including the radicalisation programme had achieved a high level of success.

"We respected the Philippines' views and cooperated with the Philippines as this year's chair", the diplomat said. "It says to the world that illegal violence is legitimate and that rule of law and human rights can be ignored".

Duterte has repeatedly said the Philippines and other nations are helpless to stop the island-building, so there is no point challenging China in diplomatic and legal circles.

China continues to reject a ruling issued by an worldwide arbitration court in The Hague past year that invalidated its sweeping claims over nearly the entire South China Sea, though Duterte's administration has opted not to push for China's compliance, in the hope of forging closer economic ties.

Nevertheless, Duterte said relations with the United States were improving now that Trump had taken over from Barack Obama, who criticized the Philippine president for his anti-drug war that has claimed thousands of lives. He said he would ask the USA president "to see to it that there is no war because my region will suffer immensely". The US stands firm to defend the freedom of maritime navigation despite China's insistence of her claim over the region.

"He was wishing me success in my campaign against the drug problem", he said at the time.

He stressed the fact that the first victim of nuclear warhead would be Asia and ASEAN countries.

ASEAN member states Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have claims that overlap those of China in the South China Sea through which much global commerce passes, and where marine resources, and potentially oil and gas deposits, are abundant.

  • Leroy Wright