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Vietnam and China agree to back off conflicts in S. China Sea

13 November 2017

Countries in the region were willing and able to appropriately handle the South China Sea issue, Geng added.

"Claimant countries would have to answer as a group or individually and not one country can just give an instant reply", Cayetano told reporters on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.

Vietnam and the USA have grown increasingly close in recent years as both countries fear Chinese ambitions in the South China Sea.

The South China Sea dispute will be one of the major issues at the East Asia Summit in The Philippines this week.

In Vietnam earlier on Sunday, Trump said he was prepared to mediate in the dispute over the South China Sea, where four Southeast Asian countries and Taiwan contest China's sweeping claims to the busy waterway. "We badly needed help and it was China who first came to our aid", Duterte said in his opening remarks.

Tensions over the sea spiked earlier this year when Vietnam suspended an oil exploration project in an area of the waterway also claimed by Beijing, reportedly over pressure from its powerhouse communist neighbor.

The framework seeks to advance a 2002 Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea, which has mostly been ignored by claimant states, particularly China, which has built seven man-made islands in disputed waters, three of them equipped with runways, surface-to-air missiles and radars.

The US conducts freedom of navigation exercises through the South China Sea.

"We want to get that straightened out very quickly", Trump said at a meeting with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

Leaders at the Philippines summit will discuss the South China Sea, but mainly to agree on a procedural step to cool tensions.

"The discussions focused on cooperation based on their converging vision and values for promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in an increasingly inter-connected region that they share with each other and with other partners", the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said. "Piracy and armed robbery in the seas put a dent on our growth and disrupt the stability of both regional and global commerce".

Duterte - sometimes described as the "Trump of the East" because of his brash style - said last week he would tell the US president to "lay off" if he raised the issue of human rights when they met.

In 2014, China moved an oil rig into waters off Vietnam's coast, sparking violent protests in several Vietnamese cities.

On a tour that has taken him to Japan, South Korea, China and Vietnam, Trump and his team have repeatedly used the term "Indo-Pacific" instead of "Asia-Pacific" for the region, which some see as an effort to depict it as more than China-dominated.

"China will work with the Philippines to continue to properly handle the maritime issues through friendly bilateral consultation by giving full play to such mechanisms as the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea", Li wrote.

Vietnam and China agree to back off conflicts in S. China Sea