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US President Attends ASEAN Summit in Philippines
MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Bilateral meeting between US President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull turned into a trilateral meeting when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was invited to attend.
The format change has highlighted an intensification of trilateral relations on regional security issues, especially over a possible response to North Korea’s nuclear missile program and countering China’s increasingly assertive territorial claims at sea..
“We have common values and a common focus, which is for the North Korean regime to come to its senses and end its reckless provocations and threats of conflict in our region,” Turnbull said. “Peace and stability have been at the heart of the prosperity of billions of people for decades, and we will work to preserve them.”.
Demonstration of military force
Meanwhile, large-scale naval exercises with the participation of three strike groups of American aircraft carriers are taking place in the western part of the Pacific Ocean..
Along with American warships, units of the South Korean Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces are participating in the exercises..
President Trump said he will make a “big statement” on North Korea and trade when he returns to Washington after a 12-day trip to five Asian countries..
“We have made great progress on trade issues,” Trump said at the start of his meeting with Turnbull and Abe on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit. He added that his Asian tour resulted in “$ 300 billion in sales to various companies including China”. However, he did not provide any details of the upcoming announcement..
Meeting with Duterte
“We have a wonderful relationship,” Trump said. – The meeting was very successful “.
Journalists tried to find out if Trump raised the issue of human rights in negotiations with Duterte.
The US President said nothing. But Duterte, who has been harshly criticized by human rights organizations abroad, replied: “Stop, stop! This is not a press release. This is a bilateral meeting “.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders later said the conversation between Trump and Duterte “was about ISIS, illegal drugs and the trade.” “The human rights issue was briefly brought up in the context of the Philippines’ fight against illegal drugs,” she explained..
Earlier, as regional leaders gathered for the colorful opening ceremony of the Manila summit, Duterte skirted the delicate issue of countering illegal drugs and thousands of extrajudicial killings..
Opening the plenary session of the 31st Leaders’ Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, he called illegal drugs a threat that endangers “the very fabric of our society”, without mentioning the methods of combating these crimes.
“I apologize for setting the tone for my statement in this way, but I just want to emphasize that our meetings in the next two days will be an excellent opportunity for us to have serious discussions on issues of regional and international importance,” Duterte said, addressing 17 other states.
Negotiations on the South China Sea
The final communiqué, agreed upon following the negotiations, is expected to announce that ASEAN is starting formal negotiations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea, where several countries are simultaneously making incompatible territorial claims..
Several countries are concerned about the growing militarization of the contested islands controlled by China.
Monday was the second day of protests in Manila with several thousand demonstrators. The protests escalated into clashes with special police units, who used truncheons, water cannons and sirens to prevent a demonstration in the field of view of the participants of the summit, the venue of which is surrounded by a security cordon.
Part of Monday’s demonstration was the burning of Trump’s effigy. Some demonstrators tried to push back the police, organizer Renato Reyes told Voice of America, who noted that “many” of the protesters were injured and some needed medical attention at a clinic deployed on site..
Local media reported that 10 people were injured in the clashes, including six police officers.
Commenting on the meeting between Trump and Duterte, Reyes said: “These two will get along with each other, but this is not good for the Filipino people.”.
The President of the United States praised the reception given to him by the leaders of Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.
“Probably no one arranged such solemn meetings,” he told reporters.