Trump offers to 'mediate' in sea dispute

Protesters burn an effigy of U.S. President Donald Trump during a rally to protest the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits Manila Philippines

Protesters burn an effigy of U.S. President Donald Trump during a rally to protest the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits Manila Philippines

Li gave the statement prior to the expected announcement of the formal start of negotiations on a sea code that seeks to manage tensions in the South China Sea.

"If I can help mediate or arbitrate, please let me know ... I am a very good mediator", Trump said on his own state visit to Hanoi at the tail end of his marathon tour of Asia.

A report from the Associated Press said Southeast Asian leaders were to announce Monday the start of negotiations with China on a so-called "Code of Conduct" in the disputed South China Sea in what they regard as a milestone but some experts dismiss as a non-starter.

Pacific Rim nation leaders agreed in Vietnam on Saturday to address "unfair trade practices" and "market distorting subsidies", a statement that bore the imprint of Trump's efforts to reshape the global trade landscape.

Following the conclusion of the APEC meetings, many attendees will next head to Manila, where a meeting of members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will commence.

A draft a joint statement to be issued later in the day after ASEAN's summit with China and seen by the AP welcomes the adoption by their foreign ministers in August of the framework of the COC in the South China Sea as "an important milestone".

Duterte said earlier in the week that he planned to ask China to make clear its intentions in the South China Sea.

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.

China, Taiwan and four ASEAN member states - Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam - have overlapping claims in the waterway, which straddles busy worldwide sea lanes and potentially has vast undersea deposits of oil and gas.

Mr Trump's offer faces major obstacles, as China has steadfastly opposed what it calls U.S. meddling in the disputes and is unhappy about the USA navy's incursions into what Beijing considers its territorial waters in the South China Sea.

Ahead of his visit to Vietnam, Xi also said that China and Vietnam - another claimant - need to "stay committed to seeking a fundamental and durable solution to their maritime issues acceptable to both sides through friendly consultation", he is quoted as saying in Chinese state media.

He said that Trump and Xi had discussed ways to "prevent mishaps, misunderstandings and miscalculations" in the vital seaway. At $32 billion previous year, it was the sixth largest with the United States, though less than a tenth the size of China's.

Since Trump took office, priorities in the region lie elsewhere, with USA focus largely on containing the North Korean threat.

He reaffirmed that the parties involved are "making giant steps forward" in talking about the code of conduct, a stronger document compared to the non-binding 2002 Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea. China bridled against interference by outside countries. The grouping, known as ASEAN, includes four of the six governments claiming waters and islands in the South China Sea.

It's claims are based on its traditional "nine-dash line" - waters that extend hundreds of miles to the south and east of its island province of Hainan, abut its neighbors' claims and, in some cases, encroach upon them.

Since coming to office 16 months ago, the firebrand leader has been conciliatory to Beijing, despite a ruling by an worldwide arbitration court favoring the Philippines in its territorial dispute with China.

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