Donald Trump offers to mediate in protracted South China Sea feud

US president Donald Trump gestures before boarding Air Force One to travel to the Philippines at the airport in Hanoi

Trump's surprise proposal to insert himself into the decades-long row risked a backlash from China, which has repeatedly said the United States has no role to play in what it insists is a series of bilateral issues.

Trump, while visiting Beijing last week as part of a five-nation Asia tour, personally asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help resolve the case of the three freshmen players arrested in Hangzhou, people familiar with the situation told the Washington Post on Monday.

Before leaving Hanoi, Trump told Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang that he was prepared to mediate between claimants to the South China Sea.

Advances should be made in Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations, implementation of key global industrial capacity cooperation projects, financial cooperation between China and ASEAN, he added. Taiwan and four ASEAN nations - Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei - have competing claims.

"The South China Sea is better left untouched, nobody can afford to go to war". It's not yet clear whether they will be allowed to fly home with the rest of the UCLA traveling party this weekend after the Bruins open their season against Georgia Tech on Saturday in Shanghai. Duterte took steps to thaw frosty relations with China after he won the presidency past year.

Mr Trump on Sunday also risked angering China, which he has sought as an ally in curbing North Korea's nuclear ambitions, by offering to mediate in a dispute over Beijing's claims to sovereignty in the South China Sea.

"China is to work with ASEAN countries to maintain peace and stability, as well as development and prosperity in the South China Sea region", Xi told Duterte as quoted by the official Xinhua news agency.

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Xi assured him of China's peaceful intentions in the strategic waterway, where Beijing, the Philippines, Vietnam and three other governments have overlapping claims, during a meeting in Danang, Vietnam, where they attended the annual APEC summit this week.

A separate statement to be issued after a meeting between the ASEAN leaders and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the approval last August of a framework for the code of conduct was "an important milestone", and both sides anticipated an early conclusion of the agreement.

We'll update this story as it continues to develop.

Australia was one of the countries, which are not claimants of the South China Sea, who called for a peaceful resolution on the maritime dispute.

"I am not saying there are no problems; I am saying it is getting better", he added.

Citing a source with firsthand knowledge of the investigation, ESPN reported the players could be in Hangzhou for "a week or two" while the situation is resolved.

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