Trump Offers to Play South China Sea Peacemaker as Trip Wraps Up

NNA – U.S. President Donald Trump offered to help resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as he entered the final leg of his 11-day swing through Asia.

Trump arrived in the Philippines on Sunday for a series of meetings on regional security affairs hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. A key discussion point over the next two days will be how to lower tensions in the South China Sea, a key shipping lane that contains oil and gas reserves.

“I am a very good mediator and a very good arbitrator,” Trump said earlier Sunday in Hanoi ahead of a meeting with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang. “If I can be of help in any way, let me know.”

It was unclear if the offhand remark signaled a more proactive U.S. role in finding a solution to one of Asia’s biggest flashpoints. Trump has primarily focused his attention on North Korea’s nuclear program, a shift from the Obama administration’s more aggressive stance against China’s activities in the South China Sea.

While the U.S. doesn’t take a position on territorial disputes, it has criticized China for land reclamation and other moves to assert control over areas also claimed in part by Vietnam, the Philippines and other countries. Quang didn’t answer directly when asked later about Trump’s offer to mediate at a joint press briefing in Hanoi.

“I have shared my thoughts with President Donald Trump on the recent developments in this area,” he said, adding that Vietnam wanted to settle disputes through “peaceful negotiations” in accordance with international law. — Bloomberg

=========== R.K.

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