No mention of South China Sea issue in Duterte-Moon talks
BUSAN, South Korea — President Rodrigo Duterte did not raise the South China Sea (SCS) row during his bilateral meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the Philippines’ Defense department secretary said Tuesday.
“Wala, hindi nabanggit ‘yun [No, that was not mentioned],” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in an interview in this port city when asked if Duterte raised the SCS issue with Moon which the President said he would do.
Lorenzana said Duterte instead renewed the Philippines’ support to South Korea and its calls for denuclearization in the peninsula.
The defense chief also expressed hopes that the Philippines and South Korea could conclude by December their negotiations on the purchase of two corvettes worth P55 billion. The small frigates may be used to patrol southern parts of the country, according to Lorenzana.
“Inaayos pa namin ‘yung financing nagne-negotiate pa kami. Gusto ko nga matapos na itong negotiation this December para mapirmahan na natin ‘yung kontrata so that we can start making, building the corvettes by January para ma-deliver ‘yan within three years habang nandyan pa si Presidente,” Lorenzana said.
(We’re still finding ways to finance the purchase of corvettes, we’re still negotiating. I actually want the negotiations to end this December so we could sign the contract and start building the corvettes by January, and deliver them within three years before the President finishes his term.)
“They can give us generous financing that we can pay maybe in a period of three to five years,” he added.
In a statement, South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration chief Wang Jung-hong said Korea signed memorandums of understanding on defense cooperation with the Philippines and Singapore also on Tuesday.
“The arrangement is expected to allow more South Korean companies to be able to make contracts with the Philippine government so as to promote their defense exports to the Southeast Asian country,” the arms procurement agency said in a release.
South Korea and Asean also adopted this day a “joint vision statement for peace, prosperity, and partnership.”
“[The two sides will] promote and facilitate dialogue and cooperation, including through Asean-led mechanisms, to support complete denuclearization and the establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner,” the statement read.
Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) are in South Korea from Monday to Tuesday to attend this year’s Asean-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit and celebrate the 30th anniversary of their dialogue partnership.
The 10 Asean-member countries are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.