US President Trump has offered himself up to be a moderator in the peace negotiations over the decades-long dispute for the South China Sea, a contested body of water that includes the interests of five bordering maritime countries and China.
Trump is wrapping up the final days of his five-nation tour of Asia and during a press conference in Hanoi, Vietnam on Sunday he was quoted as saying that he was “a very good meditator and very good arbitrator,” and that, if given the green light by the countries involved, he would “help in anyway”.
These remarks come ahead of the US President’s visit to the Philippines, where he will be attending meetings for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). Many of the maritime states involved in the dispute, namely Vietnam, Brunei, China and Malaysia, will also be in attendance at the conference.
The South China Sea is a key claim for many Southeast Asian nations and negotiations with China have been in place since 2002 for a code of conduct to be established so that they might see trading routes solidified along their path.
Currently, the body of water’s trade route brings in an annual $3.37 trillion in trade for China and it is even suspected to sit atop of oil and gas deposits.
The offer from the US president was met with lukewarm responses.
China, who has historically not been in favour of US involvement in the negotiations, said they would prefer to settle through ‘one-on-one’ talks with the countries affected.
Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang did not directly respond to Trump’s proposition when asked at a press conference in Hanoi on Sunday, instead saying that he “shared [his] thoughts with President Donald Trump” and that he would like to settle the disputes in “peaceful negotiations”.
On the Philippines side, responses to Trump’s negotiating skills was received notably more warmly by officials.
Manila’s foreign secretary, Alan Peter Cayetano, responded with a quick, ‘thanks, but no thanks’ offer, saying that, while they respected the president known as the “master of the art of the deal”, they preferred to take the course of claimant countries answering for themselves, and not relying on non-claimants inserting themselves into the affair.
As of Monday, the ten-nation Asean countries are set to announce a new set of codes on how to go forward with the South China Sea negotiations.