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ASEAN leader Philippines go easy on China over sea disputes
The Philippines followed up a summit of Southeast Asian leaders by releasing a final communique Sunday that removed mention of international concerns over China's "militarization" of newly built islands in the disputed South China Sea in a major concession to Beijing.
The 25-page statement issued by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte following the daylong meeting of leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations he hosted in Manila also made no direct mention of his country's landmark arbitration victory against China last year. A vague reference to the ruling was removed from a part of the communique that discussed the long-seething territorial conflicts and moved elsewhere in the document.
The changes were apparent based on a previous draft of the communique seen by The Associated Press. A foreign diplomat based in Manila told the AP that the Philippines circulated a stronger draft statement to other ASEAN member states, which was backed by countries like Vietnam.