U.S. pledges $300 million in security funding for ASEAN nations

US Secretary of State Pompeo calls on Dr Mahathir

Analysts have said that a spiraling trade dispute between Beijing and Washington could also ratchet up tensions over other regional hotspots, such as the South China Sea, claimed in whole by China and in part by some Southeast Asian nations.

Trump has threatened to double tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese goods, while China said it would impose tariffs ranging from 5 to 25 per cent on US$60 billion worth of American products.

He said the "single draft COC negotiating text", agreed at high-level talks in June but only announced on Thursday, would serve as the basis for negotiations.

Beijing has asserted its right to send military assets through these waters because it considered them part of its sovereign territory, but the USA does not recognize these claims and has sent rival naval patrols to stake its own position.

In his comments, which came at the start of a meeting of Asean foreign ministers in Singapore, Lee also warned about escalating global trade tensions.

The 51st ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting (AMM) took place in Singapore from July 30 to August 4.

Greg Poling, director of the US -based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, which monitors developments in the South China Sea, said highlighting the draft code of conduct in the summit will be "more political theater than substance at this point" given the lack of agreement on areas it will cover and whether the pact should be legally binding after more than 15 years of talks.

The use of "Indo-Pacific" has grown among diplomats from Japan, Australia, India and the United States in recent years, a shorthand for a democratic-led region, as opposed to an "Asia-Pacific" with China at its center.

With this idea in mind, Beijing reinforces a key element of its foreign policy: the internal affairs of the region mjst be solved by the parties directly involved and without the interference of another State, in a clear message to the ever increasing military presence of the United states in the waters of the United States in the South China Sea. It has often raised alarm over China's assertive actions, including its construction of islands where it has placed weapons including surface-to-air missiles.

"We are also working with Asean member states to counter the threat of terrorism and violent extremism in the region", he said.

However, it was too early to say when negotiations would be complete, he added.

The exercises come as more nations, many Asean members among them, are drawn into China's orbit as the United States finds it hard to promote its policy of engaging Asia while promising to put "America First". At the same time, each Asean member state is subject to different pulls and pressures from bigger powers. "You have countries with very close ties with China and those more cautious of China", said Eugene Tan, an associate professor of law at Singapore Management University.

But U.S. -North Korea negotiations on the specifics of denuclearization have been apparently at a standstill, raising skepticism about whether North Korea will really implement concrete measures toward denuclearization.

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