Singapore calls for closer SE Asia ties, Pence backs Trump

The integrated command centre of the RSS Sovereignty. The Singapore Armed Forces will deploy over 40 assets from several task forces to secure Singapore's airspace and surrounding waters during the Summit

"The South China Sea situation has been stable, but since US Vice President Mike Pence is expected to attend the summit, the topic might be put forward", a Chinese government expert is quoted as saying.

Some ASEAN members and China have overlapping claims to islands in the sea, one of the world's busiest waterways. But the talk in Singapore is of freer trade.

"As the development of the South China Sea has stabilised now, we hope to make use of this opportunity to push for concrete progress of the code", he said.

Officials said the trip to the city-state is aimed at upgrading cooperative relations with ASEAN through expanding trade and people-to-people exchanges, strengthening regional crisis management capabilities and speeding up discussions on how to respond jointly to the fourth industrial revolution.

Among the Cabinet members present during the said meeting are Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Trade Secretary Lopez, and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.

The Rohingya crisis is one of the biggest man-made disasters involving a member since ASEAN was founded in 1967, and it is one of the thorniest issues yet faced by a group that traditionally works by consensus.

Both US and China committed to supporting peace and stability in the South China Sea, the peaceful resolution of disputes, and freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea in accordance with global law during the dialogue, it added.The US takes no sides in the territorial disputes in the South China Sea but has expressed interest in the peaceful settlement of the rival claims. "That is something that we will never do".

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"I still hope we can hold talks based on mutual respect, balance and mutual benefits to resolve the issue".

The timeline announcement comes months after China and neighboring countries revealed in August that they'd agreed on a draft for the rulebook.

The YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missiles will allow China to strike vessels within 295 nautical miles, while the HQ-9B long-range surface-to-air missiles can target aircraft, drones and cruise missiles within 160 nautical miles.

Nonetheless Washington and other western allies like Britain and Australia have ramped up freedom of navigation exercises in recent months. Vietnam calls the waters the East Sea.

However, it's unclear if a deal will be reached in Singapore.

"It also has to be acceptable to all the countries that have legitimate maritime and naval military rights to transit and other associated rights that we don't want to see infringed", he said. Both highlighted concerns in the South China Sea.

"China's creating the ground in the South China Sea and putting more facts on top of it", Bolton argued in September.

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