MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday emphasized the rule of law and the peaceful resolution of disputes, in an apparent swipe at China, as he opened the 30th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit.
Without directly mentioning China, Duterte called for compliance with international law even as the regional meet is expected to give muted treatment to Beijing’s growing militarization and reclamation activities in the disputed waters.
“We must faithfully adhere to supremacy of the law and rely on the primacy of rules as responsible members of the international community,” Duterte said.
Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua was in the audience, seated beside United States Ambassador Sung Kim, whose government has repeatededly urged China to stop its island-building in the vital international waterway.
Duterte made such statement in his speech even as he called the South China Sea dispute a non-issue for the ASEAN, saying it was not the proper time to raise the Philippines’ historic win against China before an international arbitration court last year.
A draft chairman’s message expected to be issued by the end of the meet also showed that it would be silent on the Philippines’ legal victory.
In his message, Duterte also underscored non-interference among ASEAN members even as the regional bloc works together on the economic, security and cultural fronts, among others.
“Relations bear fruit when they are based on mutual respect and benefit. Dialogue relations can be made more productive [and] constructive if the value principle of non-interference on the internal affairs of ASEAN members states is observed,” Duterte said.