USA offers to mediate in S. China Sea row

Ross Houston
November 14, 2017

According to David Nakamura of the Washington Post, President Donald Trump called Chinese President Xi Jinping in hopes of resolving the shoplifting case against UCLA Bruins freshman basketball player LiAngelo Ball and two of his college teammates.

Mr Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping spoke separately about the territorial rifts before an annual summit of South-east Asian nations that also includes the US, China and other global players.

"While the situation is calmer now, we can not take the current progress for granted", the leaders said in the draft statement.

The Philippines had been the most vigorous critic of Chinese territorial claims, but Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has recently dialed back his country's objections, leaving Vietnam as the leading critic.

"The South China Sea is better left untouched, nobody can afford to go to war".

Nearly all of the South China Sea, one of the world's busiest waterways, is claimed by China.

At the meeting's formal opening on Monday, Duterte made no mention of the South China Sea and pointed to other triggers for a threat of violence in the region.

In addition to claiming the vast majority of the 1.4 million square miles (3.5 million square kilometers) of sea - China has built-up small islands in the sea and outfitted them with missile systems, much to the chagrin of its Asian neighbors and the United States.

Bilateral relations plunged to their lowest level in years in 2014 when China parked a giant oil rig in an area claimed by Vietnam.

It's "important that we cooperate to maintain peace, stability, freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea in accordance with worldwide law", they said.

UCLA didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, The Associated Press reported. "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.

Following Manila's complaint to a United Nations-backed tribunal, the panel ruled past year that China's territorial claims in the sea were without legal basis.

Vietnamese and U.S. companies signed memorandums of understanding on gas development and automobiles as well as aircraft engine purchase and support during Trump's visit.

Contempt for China runs deep in Vietnam, a country that was colonized by China for almost 1,000 years.

When he raised concerns over China's increasing military capability in the South China Sea, Mr Duterte said Mr Xi replied, "No, it's nothing".

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