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U.S. offers to mediate in S. China Sea row

AFP MANILA (AFP-Jiji) — U.S. President Donald Trump offered Sunday to mediate in a territorial dispute over the resource-rich South China Sea, after years of Chinese island-building in the contested waters.

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.

“If I can help mediate or arbitrate, please let me know ... I am a very good mediator,” Trump told Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang in Hanoi during an official state visit.

Hours later, the Communist leaders of China and Vietnam said they had reached a “consensus” on handling the disputed waters during a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Hanoi, according to the official Chinese news agency Xinhua.

The countries “reached an important consensus in accordance with leaders of the two parties and countries, to appropriately manage maritime issues, steadily advance all forms of maritime cooperation, including joint development and jointly strive to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea,” Xinhua reported.

China claims nearly all of the strategically vital sea, through which $5 trillion in shipping trade passes annually. It is also believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims in the sea.

Vietnam has courted support from Washington in the row, as it and other claimants have been powerless to stop China’s efforts in recent years to cement its claims by building artificial islands in disputed areas.Speech

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