Duterte arrives in Thailand for 34th ASEAN Summit

Duterte in airport

MANILA (UPDATE)—President Rodrigo Duterte arrived in Bangkok Friday night to participate in the 34th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.

Duterte left Davao City at 7:07 p.m., came to the Thailand capital at 10 p.m. (Bangkok time) for a meeting with his regional counterparts over the weekend.

The President was greeted by Thailand Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam and Ministry of Foreign Affair Protocol Director General Nadhavathna Krishnamra, along with Philippine Ambassador Mary Jo Bernardo Aragon.

Duterte was attended by most of his Cabinet members, including Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez among others.

Hours before his trip to Bangkok, Duterte stated he would talk “lengthily” about Beijing’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea when he meets with other ASEAN leaders.

Duterte added he would raise the question on whether it is right for China to claim all of the resource-rich waters as theirs.

“I will talk lengthily about it at ASEAN. It is not a matter of 9-dash line. It’s simple, can you claim an ocean as your own? Tell me now because I will also claim mine,” he stated in a speech at the oath-taking of new Davao City officials.

“Is it correct for China to declare ownership of an ocean? I am the moderator for China and ASEAN, but I’m posing this question, ‘Can you claim ownership of an ocean?’ ”

The Philippines is the arranger of the ASEAN-China dialogue partnership until 2021 where it leads negotiations on drafting a code of conduct for the disputed South China Sea.

Other ASEAN member-states Malaysia, Brunei, and Vietnam also have part claims to the resource-rich South China Sea and its myriad shoals, reefs, and islands.

Duterte’s remarks come amid public uproar over an allision of a Chinese ship and Filipino fishing boat near the Recto (Reed) Bank in the West Philippine Sea.

Foreign Assistant Secretary Junever Mahilum-West earlier stated there was an “opening” to bring up the Recto Bank allision at the summit.

Duterte’s newest visit to Thailand is his third one since assuming office in 2016.

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