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Trump lands in Philippines, offers to mediate on South China Sea

From Reuters - November 12, 2017

MANILA (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump landed in the Philippines on Sunday for a summit of Southeast and East Asian nations, hours after offering to mediate on competing claims to the South China Sea that have long stoked tensions in the region.

It will be the last leg of a marathon Asia tour that, despite Trumps America First policy, may reassure some thathis administration remains committed to a region that Beijing sees as its strategic domain.

In Vietnam earlier on Sunday, Trump said he was prepared to mediate in the dispute over the South China Sea, where four Southeast Asian countries and Taiwan contest Chinas sweeping claims to the busy waterway.

But Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, host of two days of summit meetings that will bring together Southeast Asian and East Asian nations, said the thorny issue was better left untouched. All the claimants will be at the summit, except for Taiwan.

We have to be friends, the other hotheads would like us to confront China and the rest of the world on so many issues, Duterte said at a pre-summit business conference in Manila.

The South China Sea is better left untouched, nobody can afford to go to war. It can ill-afford a violent confrontation.

The United States and its former colony, the Philippines,have been strategic allies since World War Two.

Trump is expected to try during the summit to shore up relations, which have been strained by the mercurial Dutertes notorious anti-U.S. sentiment and his enthusiasm for better ties with Russia and China.

Police used water canon to prevent hundreds of protesters reaching the U.S. embassy in Manila ahead of Trumps arrival.

Carrying placards declaring Dump Trump and Down with U.S. Imperialism, the left-wing protesters were blocked by police in riot gear with shields and batons, and then showered with jets of water from a fire engine.

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