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South China Sea issue to be discussed at ASEAN summit

Trump to skip meeting, Putin to attend

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By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

The issue on the South China Sea is expected to be discussed during the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and related summits in Singapore next week, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

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DFA Assistant Secretary Junever Mahilum-West (PCOO Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)

In a predeparture briefing in Malacañang Friday morning, DFA Assistant Secretary Junever Mahilum-West said the South China Sea will be one of the regional issues to be discussed along with the Korean peninsula.

“As you know, the Philippines has assumed the coordinatorship of the ASEAN-China dialogue partnership from this year until 2021, that’s a period of three years. And we are quite sure that the South China Sea, as I’ve mentioned before, would be one of those regional developments that would be taken up in the summit. As to the detail of the discussions, I cannot say but for sure there’s going to be discussion on the South China Sea,” she said.

West also said there is a possibility that Duterte will get to talk with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the sidelines of the summit given the size of the venue. Xi is expected to visit the Philippines this month.

“Well, it’s a very small place, the Suntec Conference Center, so there’s always the possibility. But any meetings would have to be, of course, prepared for beforehand. So we’ll just see. We’ll just see,” she said.

The 10 ASEAN leaders are expected to hold its meeting with China in three related summits next week, namely the ASEAN Plus China Summit, the ASEAN Plus Three Summit also with Japan and South Korea, and the East Asia Summit also with Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States.

Trump out, Putin in

Meanwhile, West said US President Donald Trump will not be attending the 33rd ASEAN Summit unlike last year when the latter flew to Manila for the 31st ASEAN Summit. She said Trump will be represented by US Vice President Mike Pence.

Russia, meanwhile, will be represented by its President Vladimir Putin. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev was the one who attended the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila last year.

“For the US, it’s going to be Vice President Mike Pence who’s going to represent President Donald Trump. And we have been advised that it’s President Putin of Russia who will be attending,” West said.

Duterte has expressed fondness to both Trump and Putin. Duterte has repeatedly referred to Trump as his friend while he mentioned that Putin is his idol.

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