China divisions take centre stage at APEC summit

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis shakes hands with Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe watched by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Chinese Politburo member Yang Jiechi

Vice President Mike Pence said on Friday that the South China Sea did not belong to any one nation, and the United States would continue to sail and fly wherever worldwide law allowed, comments sure to rile China, which claims the strategic sea route. "We put tariffs on US$250 billion of Chinese goods and we could more than double that number", said Pence.

But tensions between the United States and China have spread beyond economic issues and into political and military areas, including a concerted push back by the USA military against Beijing's claims in the South China Sea.

In the absence of Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the summit itself has been relatively low-key and the focus has turned to the venue Port Moresby.

She also met briefly with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Controversially, Mr Pence said the USA saw ASEAN as an "irreplaceable strategic partner".

Ms Ardern and Mr Peters will be staying in Port Moresby, despite Mr Pence opting to fly back and forth from Cairns, and Ms Ardern said she felt comfortable with the security arrangements.

Amid fears diplomatic and trade friction could spill over into the military sphere, Pence announced the United States would join forces with Australia in the development of a new naval base.

"History has shown that confrontation, whether in the form of a Cold War, hot war, or trade war will produce no winners", Xi said.

Batongbacal expressed fears that the President's latest remarks might once again place the country at a disadvantage.

Mr Xi and Mr Pence yesterday also sparred over China's worldwide trillion-dollar infrastructure drive - the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) - that has prompted concerns over what some view as China's use of economic inducements to gain influence in recipient countries.

Countries which embrace protectionism are "doomed to failure", China's Xi Jinping has warned in a veiled swipe at the US's America First policy.

"The benefits of free and fair trade and economic integration have been ruptured, exemplified by Brexit and trade wars between major economies", he said.

At the meeting, Duterte called on other countries to help ensure stability in the region instead of causing "friction", a reference to freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea by the United States and its allies opposed to China's militarization of the waterway.

"We have taken decisive action to address our imbalance with China", Mr. Pence declared.

"Nobody should stop people in developing countries from pursuing a better life", he added, before insisting that his signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a transnational trade and infrastructure network, "was not a trap as some people have labeled it". We don't coerce or compromise your independence.

"We do not a offer constricting belt or a one-way road", Pence told a summit of APEC chief executives, a precursor to the official leaders' meeting. "The United States deals openly and fairly".

"We are witnessing a rising tide of trade protectionism along with financial volatility in some emerging economies", Morrison said. Pence even engaged in an indirect verbal duel with China's President Xi Jingping at the APEC summit, where the two apparently fought for the attention of the smaller Pacific nations.

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