Moon leaves for Singapore to take part in ASEAN summits

The integrated command centre of the RSS Sovereignty. The Singapore Armed Forces will deploy over 40 assets from several task forces to secure Singapore's airspace and surrounding waters during the Summit

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"'[Those trade tensions] will be a reason for other developed countries to adopt protective measures against developing countries, including Asean countries", he said.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who has made a commitment to the global community to hold an election nearly every time he has travelled overseas, avoided any mention of the election while delivering his speech at the Asean business forum in Singapore.

Li said a peaceful and stable global environment was crucial for Beijing to improve ties and reach free trade deals with its neighbours, adding that China hoped to conclude negotiations for a comprehensive regional economic partnership trade deal next year.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang - for a second day - struck a conciliatory note on the trade spat, saying he was hopeful that the two sides will find a way to prevent it escalating further.

Li later indicated that the finalization of such a code would help to boost trade between China and ASEAN countries and "go on to serve the interests of other parties", the South China Morning Post reported. "What we hope for is a harmonious relationship with our neighbours and together we benefit from our good neighbourliness".

Labourers install a panel prior the start of the 22nd Asean coordinating council meeting on the sidelines of the 33rd Asean summit in Singapore on Tuesday.

PM Modi is also scheduled to deliver a keynote address at the Singapore Fintech Summit.

Mahathir, a veteran strongman of the region who in May returned to the prime minister's office he had occupied for 22 years, told reporters that the United States is "a colonial power" that uses "economic pressure to cow people".

Inward-looking, protectionist policies have gained ground in ASEAN as elsewhere, he said.

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Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, in a statement on Tuesday, said negotiations had "progressed substantially" and "reached the final stage".

The 10 members of ASEAN agreed to start negotiations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea in 2002, but little progress has been made amid rising tensions in the area, which is a crucial trade route for worldwide shipping and thought to be rich in natural resources.

China and ASEAN agreed in August on a working text to continue long drawn-out negotiations over the code of conduct.

Some Asean leaders have pushed for stronger action to confront China's aggressive behavior in the South China Sea following its continued militarization and reclamation in the area.

The annual ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) summit is also taking place in Singapore next week.

Premier Li did not offer reasons for the current state of affairs, but said relations have gone through ups and down over the years, although they had largely been stable.

The Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam also claim parts of the sea, as does Taiwan.

Duterte noted that while "everything has been excellent" between the ASEAN and China with regard to managing the sea dispute, it's a different story for Western nations, including the U.S., which insists on their freedom to fly over and sail through the hotly contested sea. Together with the Belt and Road Initiative to build investment and trade links with countries along the old Silk Road to Europe, the pact is a key element in China's efforts to seize the geopolitical advantage following what many in the region see as a United States retreat.

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