South China Sea tensions to drive defense spending

"We gladly note the wise choice of the newly-elected Philippine government", the foreign minister noted. Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

Philippines' President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday he would pursue an independent foreign policy and would not rely on the Southeast Asian nation's long-time ally, the United States.

"We support peaceful resolution of the disputes in line with worldwide law, including UNCLOS", Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said in his keynote address at the Shangri-La Dialogue, referring to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

There are no official US-China meetings planned at the Shangri-La meeting, at which Carter gives a keynote speech on Saturday.

USA moves in recent months have led to angry protests from China and Russian Federation, which contend the Obama administration is fueling unrest in the Asia Pacific and conducting illegal and unsafe transit in the region.

"Only a meeting of minds can solve or mitigate these challenges and as host, we will make sure that leaders get full opportunities to engage each other", Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on his Facebook page.

Manila has brought a case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration against China under the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Local fishermen had been barred from entering the waters around the shoal since China seized it from the Philippines in 2012. US moves in recent months have led to angry protests from Beijing and Moscow.

The incident added fuel to the fire in the already tense relations between the two countries.

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And in a sign of a possibly warming view of China, Duterte called Xi Jinping "a great president". It could also cover global waters and apply rules inconsistent with USA interpretations of worldwide law.

A court ruling is expected to be delivered within weeks.

Bilateral talks between China and the Philippines came to a standstill during the reign of outgoing Philippine President Beningo Aquino III. However, he has also played to nationalist sentiments by saying he would ride a jet ski to plant a Philippine flag on disputed islands in the sea.

Roiling tensions in the South China Sea are set to dominate Asia's biggest security summit starting in Singapore on Friday, exposing a deepening rivalry between the United States and China ahead of a landmark legal ruling in the Hague. "We on the Chinese side are ready to work in a constructive manner - and we are hopeful that the USA will demonstrate the same spirit", Cui added.

Speaking at a forum ahead of next week's high-level meetings with US officials in Beijing, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang said his country had every right to protect its sovereignty and maritime rights in the South China Sea.

Malaysia, as one of the claimant States to the several islets in the South China Sea, has thus far taken a rather careful and safe approach, despite China's maritime claims.

Whether it is on the South China Sea issue or on Korean peninsula, China and the USA have a shared security goal to maintain regional stability, they said.

At the Beijing talks with the United States, which U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will attend, other issues will also be on the table.