In his final stop of a 12-day tour of Asia, Donald Trump will arrive in the Philippines today for talks
In his final stop of a 12-day tour of Asia, Donald Trump will arrive in the Philippines today for talks with ASEAN leaders.
South China Sea issues are expected to top the agenda. China recently pressured Manila to stop building huts on sandbars in the disputed Spratly Islands. While host President Rodrigo Duterte has cultivated closer ties with Beijing, on Thursday, Mr Duterte insisted he would “carry the voice of ASEAN” and ask Xi Jinping to clarify China’s intentions in the Sea.
Of particular interest is the Scarborough Shoal, which is claimed by both the Philippines and China. Located within the Philippine exclusive economic zone, the Shoal is a key fishing ground. Despite this, Beijing has restricted access to the disputed islands since 2012; last week, a new dredging ship was launched, which could be key to Chinese island-building on Scarborough.
ASEAN attendees have much to consider. While island-building on the Scarborough Shoal has generally been considered a ‘red line’ for Washington, Mr Trump needs China’s support to check North Korea. For his part, President Duterte appears reluctant to jeopardise relations with China.
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