Thorny South China Sea issue may dominate ASEAN summit


Indonesian President Joko Widodo's plane touched down at noon Sunday at the Clark International Airport in this former military base, the second ASEAN head of state to arrive for the day to attend the 31st Summit and related summits of Southeast Asia's leaders and their dialogue partners. The latter groups together Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam-which are Asean member states-along with Australia, China, Japan, India, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States under one umbrella.

In Manila, the Prime Minister will meet some of the other world leaders, who are participating in the East Asia summit.

In the evening, President and First Lady will attend the Special Gala Celebration for the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN, held at SMX Convention Center, Manila. Coincidentally, India is also marking 25 years of ties with the Asean this year and hopes to host all Asean leaders at a commemorative summit in New Delhi in January 2018.

The use of the term "Indo-Pacific" by Trump has led to speculation that it may have something to do with Washington preparing the ground for a revival of the so-called Quadrilateral strategic alliance between the US, Japan, Australia and India to counter China's rise.

In a briefing for the three-day Asean Business and Investment Summit 2017 that started Sunday afternoon, Concepcion chair noted that 99.6 percent of businesses in the country were micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

Modi's meeting with Trump comes right after Trump's visit to China.

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Reacting to the Japanese move, India had said that it was open to working with like-minded countries on issues that advance its interests. "Our Prime Minister's will visit this to demonstrate our India's support to this very important charitable activity".

In his meetings with Trump and Abe, Modi could also discuss alternatives to China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative - unveiled by Beijing in May to connect China by land and sea to Southeast Asia, Pakistan and Central Asia, and beyond to the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

In his maiden visit to the Philippines as prime minister, Modi will also attend a reception by the Indian community and visit the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Mahavir Philippines Foundation.

The three-day visit to Phillipines includes a bilateral meeting with several global leaders.

He said his participation in the two summits symbolises India's commitment to continue deepening relationship with ASEAN member states, in particular, and with the Indo-Pacific region, in general, within the framework of the government's Act East Policy.

Prime minister Modi will also participate in the ASEAN business and investment summit as well as a meeting of leaders of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The grouping is expected to boost free trade and defence cooperation across part of South China Sea and Indian Ocean.