Published: Wed, May 03, 2017
Global Media | By Meredith Barber

Trump invites Philippines' Duterte to the White House

Trump invites Philippines' Duterte to the White House

Southeast Asian leaders prepare to link arms as they pose for a family photo following their retreat in the 30th ASEAN Leaders' Summit Saturday, April 29, 2017 in Manila, Philippines.

Six hours after the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit officially ended in Manila, no customary joint statement had been issued and it was unclear whether there was agreement over including references to China's militarization and island-building in the hotly disputed waterway.

Aside from the Philippines, ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam also are involved in the territorial conflicts, which many fear could spark the next major armed conflict in economically bustling Asia.

Former Philippine officials who dealt with the disputes say Duterte's concessions to China could weaken the ability of the Philippines and other ASEAN member states to seek Chinese compliance to the arbitration ruling and curb Beijing's increasingly assertive behavior in the disputed waters.

"Non-mention of The Hague ruling would be a diplomatic triumph for China", said former Philippine national security adviser Roilo Golez, referring to the European tribunal that issued the landmark decision. The waters are also important fishing grounds and are believed to have undersea deposits of oil and gas.

Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have urged North Korea to seriously comply with worldwide obligations and voiced concerns over Pyongyang's test-firing of mid-range ballistic missiles.

"We urged (North Korea) to immediately cease all actions that violate its worldwide obligations and contravene UN Security Council resolutions", the leaders said.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, whose country holds the rotating chair of Asean this year, officially released the chairman's statement on Sunday.

This year's summit comes at a time of uncertainty about USA interests in the region and whether it will maintain its maritime presence to counter Chinese assertiveness that has often put the region on edge.

President Donald Trump invited his polarizing Philippines counterpart to the White House during a phone call in which the two leaders discussed North Korea.

"It behooves upon America, who wields the biggest stick, just to really be prudent and patient. And we have to caution everybody, including those who would give the advice to the two power players - because here there are nuclear warheads - to just show restraint", he said.

The Prime Minister said he had also expressed his gratitude to President Duterte for helping to rescue five Malaysian hostages kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf for eight months ad one week.

The 72-year-old leader faces a mass murder complaint before the International Criminal Court and an impeachment bid at home as bodies continue to pile up in his drugs campaign.

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