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MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippines thanked US President Donald Trump on Sunday, November 12, for his offer to mediate in the South China Sea dispute.
“We thank him for it. It’s a very kind, generous offer, because he is a good mediator. He is the master of the art of the deal,” Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in an interview with reporters Sunday afternoon.
“But of course the claimant countries have to answer as a group or individually, and not one country can just give an instant reply because mediation involves all of the claimants and non-claimants,” Cayetano said.
Cayetano made this statement after Trump on Sunday made the offer to Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang.
“If I can help mediate or arbitrate, please let me know… I am a very good mediator,” Trump said.
Trump is set to arrive in Manila on Sunday for the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Summits hosted by the Philippines.
Chinese premier’s visit ‘a big honor’
Like Trump, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is also visiting the Philippines for the ASEAN Summit.
It will be the first time in more than 10 years that a Chinese premier is visiting the Philippines.
On Li’s visit, Cayetano said, “It’s a big honor, and it shows the growing and strengthening relationship between the Philippines and its neighbor, particularly China.”
“It also symbolizes the economic ties and economic development because the premier is in charge of the economy so it should be a great visit. We’re making all the preparations and we’re attaching great importance to his visit,” the Philippines’ top diplomat added.
The Philippines and China, as well as other claimant countries, remain embroiled in a decades-long dispute over the South China Sea. The Philippines claims parts of the contested waters as the West Philippine Sea.
In July 2016, Manila won a historic case against Beijing over the South China Sea, but Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has chosen to downplay this legal victory for the sake of better ties with China. (READ: Justice Carpio hits Duterte policy after Hague ruling) – Rappler.com