South China Sea, N. Korea, counterterror top Trump’s ASEAN agenda

MANILA — United States President Donald Trump’s priorities in his upcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) trip include the denuclearization of North Korea, meaningful code of conduct negotiations in the South China Sea, and counterterrorism efforts among others, said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Murphy.

In a recently held forum co-organized by The Stimson Center and the US Philippines Society, Murphy along with Philippine Embassy Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Minister Patrick Chuasoto discussed the US-Philippine priorities for the 2017 ASEAN and East-Asia Summits.

“The United States will continue to maintain a very strong presence in the Indo Pacific region, will continue to pursue policies that contribute to the peace, stability and prosperity both in the region and back home here in the United States,” Murphy said.

“The partnership with the Philippines is very broad and this alliance is one of our most enduring partnerships and relationships anywhere in the Indo Pacific region. It has been a cornerstone of stability for over 70 years,” Murphy underscored on US-Philippine relations.

For his part, Chuasoto laid out the Philippines’ thematic priorities as Chair of ASEAN 2017, and discussed the ASEAN goals of building an inclusive ASEAN community, upholding peaceful co-existence among member states, adhering to the rule of law in the peaceful resolution of disputes, sustaining inclusive economic growth, enhancing resiliency in the face of natural disasters, and strengthening its institutions.

“Much of ASEAN’s success is attributed to the ASEAN Way of consultation, consensus and cooperation. ASEAN was founded on the basis of several fundamental principles, among them mutual respect, non-interference in the internal affairs of other members, and peaceful settlement of disputes,” Chuasoto emphasized.




The White House said that President Trump is set to hold a bilateral meeting with President Duterte on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit this November but experts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said in-depth discussion between the two leaders on the South China Sea dispute might be unlikely.

“I’m not sure President Duterte wants to raise it with President Trump,” said Amy Searight, senior adviser and director of CSIS Southeast Asia Program.

“I don’t think he (President Duterte) wants to have any South China Sea discussion with President Trump at all. And so I also don’t know whether President Trump is going to really forcefully raise that issue with the Philippines or not,” she said in a press briefing at the CSIS last November 1.

According to Michael Green, senior vice president for Asia and Japan Chair at the CSIS, the South China Sea issue is “at something of an impasse.”

“China built this three military — major military airfields, and not much has happened since except further militarization of those airfields,” he said. “And so the next – the next step or the next problem could be something like Beijing declaring an air defense identification zone, ADIZ, over the South China Sea, over its claimed Nine-Dash Line, the way it did in Northeast Asia; or something like beginning construction on Scarborough Shoals or in a new area,” he added.

President Duterte after his trip to Tokyo, Japan said he’s confident that China is now seeking peaceful resolution on the maritime row.

“China has put it on record that near the Pag-asa where we also have our bay there, the Scarborough islands, China has committed to us not to build anything there and I hope that they would honor that commitment to us,” Duterte has said. PNA-northboundasia.com