USA offers to mediate in S. China Sea row

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"I am a very good mediator", Trump told Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang in Hanoi during an official state visit.

China has opposed a legally binding code, and Southeast Asian diplomats said even ASEAN is not unanimous in seeking a binding set of rules.

Despite unresolved issues, discussions between ASEAN and China have improved, Cayetano said. "He knows that if he goes to war, everything will blow up".

China and Vietnam have reached a consensus on appropriately handling the contested South China Sea.

The two parties said it "is important that we cooperate to maintain peace, stability, freedom of navigation in and overflight above the SCS, in accordance with global law", including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

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In August, the foreign ministers of the Southeast Asian countries and China adopted a negotiating framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea, although critics see it as a tactic to buy China time to consolidate its power.

Vietnam and China, along with four other governments, claim all or parts of the South China Sea, which is believed to sit atop rich natural resources and occupies one of the world's busiest sea lanes.

Following Manila's complaint to a United Nations-backed tribunal, the panel ruled past year that China's territorial claims in the sea were without legal basis.

The next step is for ASEAN and China to start formal consultations and negotiations for the actual Code of Conduct, and the earliest that talks on this can start is February 2018, the diplomat said.

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We'll update this story as it continues to develop.

"I am not saying there are no problems; I am saying it is getting better", he added. Both Trump and Xi were following on from the latest APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit that concluded Saturday in the coastal city of Danang, 470 miles (750 kilometers) south of Hanoi.

Since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has grown closer to China, Vietnam has emerged as China's main challenger in the region.

"We're also concerned about what's happening in the South China Sea - the continued buildup of military installations, and in our bilateral last night with Mr. Xi Jinping, I told the President our misgivings", Duterte told Turnbull.

According to Malacañang, Duterte recognized the strong relations between the Philippines and Brunei and vowed to further strengthen it in the years ahead.

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