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PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK
(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

CANADA IS THE FREEST NATION IN THE WORLD, 'LEGATUM' STUDY SAYS
[SORRY AMERICA]


NOVEMBER 3 -Canada is the real "Land of the Free," according to a London-based international think tank. America may call itself the "Land of the Free," but it's hardly the freest nation in the world, according to a new report from the Legatum Institute, a London-based think tank. The group's annual prosperity index, which ranks the prosperity of 142 countries, has ranked Canada the best country in the world for "personal freedom." According to the study, Canada is the most tolerant of people from other countries, with 92 percent of Canadians thinking the country is a good place for immigrants. In addition, about 94 percent of Canadians believe that they have the freedom to choose the course of their own lives, the study says. Did we mention they might legalize pot soon? America, on the other hand, ranks 15th for freedom, just behind Costa Rica and the Netherlands. The best countries for personal freedom are: 1. Canada 2. New Zealand 3. Norway 4. Luxembourg 5. Iceland 6. Ireland 7. Sweden 8. Denmark 9. Australia 10. Uruguay. Coming out on top — ranking high in all categories — was Norway, which was named the most prosperous country in the world for the seventh year in a row. READ MORE...RELATED, Trudeau triumphs over Trump in Forbes most powerful people list Forbes magazine ranking says Prime Minister Trudeau is less powerful than Mexican president, more powerful than Donald Trump & The flipside of politics changes everything in Ottawa...

ALSO Samal resort kidnappings: 'Pay ONE BILLION ransom or they will kill us'[DESPERATE PLEA]


NOVEMBER 4 -The four hostages were shown on a 30-second video filmed in a jungle and is the second video released by terror group Abu Sayyaf. Canadian hostages in desperate plea for their lives following Filipino jihadi death threat Robert Hall and John Ridsdel were kidnapped by terrorists Abu Sayyaf They were abducted alongside Kjartan Sekkinstad and his girlfriend All four victims were paraded on an Isis-style video by their captors Hall said they would die unless a one billion peso ($21m) ransom was paid. Two Canadian hostages abducted with two others from a luxury Samal Island resort in September by Isis-style terrorists have claimed they are in 'grave danger' in a kidnap ransom video. Robert Hall and John Ridsdel were kidnapped with Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkinstad and his Filipino girlfriend. The four hostages were shown on a 30-second video filmed in a jungle and is the second video released by terror group Abu Sayyaf. Militants threaten The 30-second video shows the four hostages being threatened by a group of heavily armed terrorists. The terrorist begin by threatening Canadian hostage John Ridsel, centre, with a large machete. The new video starts with John Ridsel being held by the head with a long machete pointing towards his neck. The three male hostages appear to be in fresh clothes, although Norwegian hostage Kjartan Sekkinstad's Filipino girlfriend seems to be in the same pink top. Hostages plead for their lives in Abu Sayyaf ransom video. He was abducted alongside fellow Canadian John Ridsdel, right and two other hostages Robert Hall, left, pleaded with the Canadian government to intervene in the case following September's kidnapping. READ MORE..., RELATED EARLIER REPORT......

ALSO: Phl Military steps up offensive vs Sayyaf kidnappers


NOVEMBER 6 -The military has stepped up its operations in Sulu after Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri ordered his commanders to keep the Abu Sayyaf on the run – to pressure the militants into releasing their hostages. On Tuesday, a second video of the hostages – Canadians John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, 50, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, and Hall’s Filipina girlfriend Marites Flor – was released by the militants. In the video, the Abu Sayyaf demanded P1 billion for the release of each of the foreign hostages. PHILSTAR FILE ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The military has sent more ground troops to Sulu in an intensified operation to rescue three Westerners and a Filipina seized by Abu Sayyaf bandits from a Samal Island resort in September. A security official said soldiers have reported the discovery of three dead militants in Patikul town. The military has stepped up its operations in Sulu after Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri ordered his commanders to keep the Abu Sayyaf on the run – to pressure the militants into releasing their hostages. On Tuesday, a second video of the hostages – Canadians John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, 50, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, and Hall’s Filipina girlfriend Marites Flor – was released by the militants. In the video, the Abu Sayyaf demanded P1 billion for the release of each of the foreign hostages. Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, commander of the Joint Task Group Sulu (JTGS), said his troops ran into a group of Abu Sayyaf militants on Monday in Barangay Liang, Patikul town. Arrojado said three Abu Sayyaf militants initially reported as wounded died Tuesday. The slain Abu Sayyaf members were identified as Timhar Jauhari, Munar Abdulhair and Nasser Hadjail. Reported wounded was a certain Jani Kamlun. At least three soldiers were wounded in the encounter with the militants at 1:45 p.m. last Monday. Reports said the bandits unleashed a barrage of M203 rifle grenade attacks on the soldiers. Meanwhile, government forces have recovered a black flag of international terrorist group ISIS and other items in an area in Sulu where Abu Sayyaf bandits were believed to have stayed. Military officials, however, said they doubt if the bandits really have direct links to the Syria-based extremist group. Troops from the Marine Battalion Landing Team 10 recovered the items in Sitio Lungon-Lungon, Barangay Kuppong in Indanan town, Arrojado said. Arrojado did not give details on the operation. READ MORE...

ALSO: PHL still awaits China's confirmation for APEC Summit


NOVEMBER 4 -President Benigno Aquino III is welcomed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Madame Peng Li Yuan upon arrival for the APEC Leaders' Meeting welcome dinner and cultural performance in China in November 2014. Malacañang Photo Bureau
China snubbing the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Manila remains a possibility, as President Xi Jinping has yet to accept the Philippine invitation two weeks before the meeting.
In a televised interview, Cabinet Secretary Jose Almendras said 20 heads of states have confirmed their attendance to the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting on November 18 and 19. APEC comprises 21 member economies that include Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, US and Vietnam. "We are still waiting for a confirmation from China. Everyone else is more or less confirmed already," Almendras said. The Philippines, which is hosting the APEC meeting this year, has formally transmitted an invitation to China, President Benigno Aquino III said during the annual presidential forum of the Foreign Association Correspondents of the Philippines last week. Speculations about China snubbing the Philippines' hosting of the APEC Summit are rooted in a territorial dispute between the Asian neighbors. The Philippines is dismissing China's claims over a number of islands off the West Philippine Sea before an arbitration court in The Hague. The Asian giant, however, does not recognize the authority of the international tribunal to hear the case. The Philippines scored some sort of victory in first round of the arbitration last Friday, when the court ruled it has jurisdiction to hear its territorial claims against China, which continues to press bilateral talks to settle the issue. READ MORE...RELATED Palace: No signs Xi Jinping will snub APEC in Manila, & 20 heads of state confirm APEC Manila attendance...

ALSO U.N. Report: Parties must agree how to resolve disputes - Chinese official


NOVEMBER 6 -Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and Vietnamese Communist Party Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong wave at well-wishers as they leave a welcome ceremony at the presidential palace for the headquarters of the Vietnamese Communist Party for official talks in Hanoi Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015. Xi’s visit to Vietnam on Thursday comes as the two communist countries seek to mend ties strained over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Hoang Dinh Nam/Pool Photo via AP
  UNITED NATIONS — A Chinese official praised the U.N. International Court of Justice on Thursday and called the Chinese government "an active advocator for peaceful settlement of disputes" — but he stressed that all parties must agree on the means to settle differences.
The comments by Xu Hong, director general of the Foreign Ministry's Department of Treaty and Law, were made as China is embroiled in disputes with several of its neighbors over its claims of sovereignty to almost all of the South China Sea. Last week, over Chinese objections, another international tribunal, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, ruled it had jurisdiction in a case brought by the Philippines against China over competing maritime claims. China has declared that it will not take part in arbitration with the Philippines, insisting on one-on-one negotiations with smaller rival claimants which analysts say would give Beijing the advantage because of its sheer size and clout. Xu told a U.N. General Assembly meeting on the International Court of Justice — the U.N.'s primary judicial branch — that "China stands for proper settlement through negotiations, dialogue and consultations." But he said the means of settling disputes should be based on "sovereign equality and in full respect for the wish of the states concerned."

ALSO: No joint declaration at Asia defense meet amid sea tensions


NOVEMBER 4 -China's Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, center, shakes hands with India's Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar before the start of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defense Ministers' Meeting Plus in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. AP
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Divisions within Asia over China's claims in the disputed South China Sea spilled over Wednesday to a meeting of U.S. and Asian defense ministers, where China insisted the group make no public mention of the waterway in a joint declaration intended as a public display of unity.
A senior American official traveling with Defense Secretary Ash Carter said plans for a joint statement were canceled, reflecting a split with China and perhaps other Asian nations over citing the South China Sea issue. The U.S. official spoke on condition of anonymity because the defense ministers were still in closed-door meetings. A Malaysian official, whose country hosted the talks, confirmed the joint declaration was scrapped and will be replaced by a chairman's statement. The official declined to give details. The U.S. official said that China, which like the United States is not a member of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations but was attending the defense ministers' meeting as an invited partner, was adamant that the meeting's final public statement omit any mention of the South China Sea. The Americans argued that it would be better to make no joint statement at all rather than issue one that omitted mention of the contentious South China Sea issue. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Canada is the Freest Nation in the World, Legatum Study Says

[SORRY AMERICA]


Canada is the real "Land of the Free," according to a London-based international think tank.

WASHINGTON, NOVEMBER 9, 2015 (U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT)  By Lauren Boyer Nov. 3, 2015 - America may call itself the "Land of the Free," but it's hardly the freest nation in the world, according to a new report from the Legatum Institute, a London-based think tank.

The group's annual prosperity index, which ranks the prosperity of 142 countries, has ranked Canada the best country in the world for "personal freedom."

According to the study, Canada is the most tolerant of people from other countries, with 92 percent of Canadians thinking the country is a good place for immigrants. In addition, about 94 percent of Canadians believe that they have the freedom to choose the course of their own lives, the study says.

Did we mention they might legalize pot soon?

America, on the other hand, ranks 15th for freedom, just behind Costa Rica and the Netherlands.

The best countries for personal freedom are:

1. Canada
2. New Zealand
3. Norway
4. Luxembourg
5. Iceland
6. Ireland
7. Sweden
8. Denmark
9. Australia
10. Uruguay

Coming out on top — ranking high in all categories — was Norway, which was named the most prosperous country in the world for the seventh year in a row.

READ MORE...

Latin American Countries Rated Most Emotional. Bolivia leads, while post-Soviet states lag.


A woman shouts. In the future, how people feel will be a critical way to assess a country, says a Gallup official.

By Deidre McPhillips Aug. 28, 2015 | 4:47 p.m. EDT +

More Latin American countries are home to some of the most emotional societies in the world, according to a Gallup poll.

About six out of 10 individuals surveyed in countries such as Bolivia, El Salvador and Nicaragua reported experiencing positive or negative feelings in a day.

The least emotional countries, including Georgia, Russia and Ukraine, are heavily concentrated in post-Soviet states, where about four out of 10 individuals reported experiencing the same positive or negative feelings.

The 10 experiences – five positive and five negative – included in the survey were chosen to gauge a country’s well-being and how its citizens are living their lives, said Jon Clifton, managing director for Gallup Global Analytics.

The Positive and Negative Experience Indexes are not related, meaning good events – like laughing or doing something interesting – and bad feelings – like anger or sadness – do not influence the other.

Seven of the top 10 overall Most Emotional Countries also were in the top 10 countries reporting Highest Positive Experience scores in 2014. All 10 of those countries are in Latin America. Also in the top 10 Most Emotional Countries are Iraq – the country with the Highest Negative Experience in 2014 – and the Philippines – a country that previously held the top spot.

Today, the success of world leaders is judged by growth in gross domestic product, said Clifton. However, years from now, he said, the best way to judge a country will be to see statistically how its people are doing and feeling.

See the full list of countries on Gallup here.

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RELATED FROM THE TORONTO STAR

Trudeau triumphs over Trump in Forbes most powerful people list Forbes magazine ranking says Prime Minister Trudeau is less powerful than Mexican president, more powerful than Donald Trump. Share on Facebook  By: David Bateman Staff Reporter, Published on Thu Nov 05 2015


At 43 years old, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is the fifth youngest person on Forbes list of the world's most powerful people, after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, North Korean leader Kim Jogn-un, and Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin. SEAN KILPATRICK / CP

At 43 years old, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is the fifth youngest person on Forbes list of the world's most powerful people, after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, North Korean leader Kim Jogn-un, and Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is the 69th most powerful person in the world, according to Forbes magazine. The newly elected Liberal leader is three places above U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in the annual list.

Stephen Harper did not feature in 2014. Russian president Vladimir Putin has the top spot this year, ahead of the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel and U.S. president Barack Obama.

Other political figures who appear ahead of Trudeau include the U.K.’s David Cameron (8), Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu (21), Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto (52), and both Hilary and Bill Clinton (58 and 64).

At 43 years old, Trudeau is the fifth youngest on the list, not quite as young as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un or Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Notable businessmen and women appearing in Forbes’ article include Microsoft founder Bill Gates (6), Apple CEO Tim Cook (27), Ginni Rometty (63) of IBM and Mary Barra of General Motors (65). Forbes says the ranking features “the global elite whose actions move the planet.”

Their criteria include: how much power the candidates exert over how many people; their financial resources; how many spheres of influence they are active in, and how they wielded power.

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RELATED FROM THE TORONTO STAR

The flipside of politics changes everything in Ottawa: by Tim Harper 1/17 Toronto Star Toronto Star Tim Harper - National Affairs 7 hrs ago SHARE


Harper will remain an MP for the riding of Calgary Heritage

OTTAWA—When power flips in the capital, everything turns upside down.

To the victor, the parade, the adulation, everything but the rose petals. To the vanquished, the freight entrance.

And so it was Thursday, when a jaunty Prime Minister Justin Trudeau loped into his first caucus meeting to cheers and Stephen Harper returned to the House of Commons via the door reserved for recycling.

Trudeau, it seemed, was everywhere, strolling the grounds of Parliament Hill, even stopping to greet a defeated junior Conservative cabinet minister, Ed Holder. Earlier this week he made an impromptu visit, garbed in safety vest and hard hat, to Parliament Hill construction workers.

Harper slipped in and out of the Centre Block like a cat burglar with a satchel full of jewels.

While attention was focused on new Liberal ministers, others searched for the back door route Harper would use to exit. He made it. There are a lot of labyrinths to this building and a lot of ways to evade prying cameras. Just ask some senators.

The two sides met across the hall from each other (the New Democrats have been exiled to the basement) but the metaphorical gulf stretched far beyond the 10 metres or so that separate the two Centre Block meeting rooms.

On the Liberal side, it was the first day at school. On the Conservative side, for many, it was the last day at school.

Newly minted Liberals sought directions to the caucus room, asked reporters to snap photos of their first day in the Commons, approached TV personalities to introduce themselves. They think we’re nice. They’ll learn.

Conservatives, the masters of employing ropes, security and a heads-down single-minded quest for the nearest door to evade members of the Press Gallery, were suddenly chatty. Extremely chatty.

The Conservative story had more of an urgency on this day, equal parts political inquest and page-turning.

It started with an address from the outgoing leader, Harper, then ultimately the choice of an interim leader, Edmonton’s Rona Ambrose, whose government portfolios have included environment, health and public works.

Harper spoke to his colleagues for 15 to 20 minutes, and was accepting of the verdict of voters and accepting of blame for the party’s performance election day. He was relaxed, well-received and it appears that the time for recrimination has passed, although a number of former ministers and MPs have become post-election pundits since Oct. 19.

According to some interpretations, Harper appeared relieved to be able to walk away after almost 10 years at the helm.

Ambrose takes on a big job and one that she could hold for more than a year.

The party, as former treasury board president Tony Clement pointed out, is not facing a “cataclysmic” rebuild as it did after 1993, perhaps the biggest change election in recent history.

The Conservatives have 99 seats and won 32 per cent of the vote and could be a formidable opposition — if Ambrose can keep them relevant and win her share of media attention.

The party should be looking at the way Bob Rae kept the Liberals together when his party was facing a much more daunting rebuild than the one facing the Conservatives today.

Rae set the bar high. He was encyclopedic in his grasp of issues, loquacious with reporters and a strong House performer.

Ambrose limited questions Thursday and has never shown the type of flair in the Commons her party might need to punch through the Trudeau fascination, but she has proved quietly competent in her recent jobs after a stumbling start out of the gate as a Harper minister.

She inherits a caucus that knows that things here could flip again in four years.

“We’re hurting, but we’re united,’’ said former minister and GTA MP Peter Kent.

While Ambrose keeps the seat warm, others have started to build the mechanism for a run for the permanent leader.

Former defence minister Jason Kenney said his party “got the big things right. We got the tone wrong.’’

Neither he nor Clement did anything to squelch leadership rumours and former transport minister Lisa Raitt also left the door open, urging the party to first figure out what it needs to do to win, then seek a leader who can make that happen.

The Conservatives should clench their teeth, give Trudeau his days in the sun and accept Raitt’s counsel. They can come back, but they have to realize their problems run deeper than mere leadership. Liberals in the pre-Trudeau era have already shown them the futility of grasping at leadership as the fix-all.

Tim Harper is a national affairs writer. His column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. tharper@thestar.ca Twitter:@nutgraf1


THE DAILY MAIL ONLINE, UK

'Pay ONE BILLION ransom or they will kill us' PUBLISHED: 09:25 GMT, 4 November 2015 | UPDATED: 12:41 GMT, 4 November 2015 By DARREN BOYLE FOR MAILONLINE


The four hostages were shown on a 30-second video filmed in a jungle and is the second video released by terror group Abu Sayyaf.

Please watch on hostages desperate plea to pay ransom and stop all military operations vs Sayyaf and Abu militants warning  on this 21/2-minute video:CLICK & WATCH DESPERATE PLEA. WARNINGS FROM MILITANTS

Two Canadian hostages and a Norwegian with his Filipino girlfriend from a luxury Samal Island resort in September by Isis-style terrorists have claimed they are in 'grave danger' in a kidnap ransom video.

Robert Hall and John Ridsdel were kidnapped with Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkinstad and his Filipino girlfriend.

The four hostages were shown on a 30-second video filmed in a jungle and is the second video released by terror group Abu Sayyaf. Photos on this page screengrabbed from videos.


The terrorist begin by threatening Canadian hostage John Ridsel, centre, with a large machete The terrorist begin by threatening Canadian hostage John Ridsel, centre, with a large machete


Robert Hall, second left, then pleads for the Canadian government to pay One Billion Filipino pesos.

The new video starts with John Ridsel being held by the head with a long machete pointing towards his neck. The three male hostages appear to be in fresh clothes, although Norwegian hostage Kjartan Sekkinstad's Filipino girlfriend seems to be in the same pink top.

He was abducted alongside fellow Canadian John Ridsdel, right and two other hostages Robert Hall, left, pleaded with the Canadian government to intervene in the case following September's kidnapping. He was abducted alongside fellow Canadian John Ridsdel, right and two other hostages

READ MORE...


Mr Ridsdel, right, also spoke briefly on the Abu Sayyaf ransom video which was published on Youtube
.


The terror group's spokesman, pictured, centre, demanded that Filipino authorities halt their military action.

More than half-a-dozen heavily armed men carrying M16 assault rifles stood behind the hostages during the video. Some of the terrorists carried black Isis-style banners. All of the men were masked. One of the terrorists spoke good, but accented English.

In September, the hostages were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf, a group which claims affiliation with Isis.

Robert Hall spoke first on camera. He said: 'My name is Robert Hall. To my family and friends I am okay. I am in grave danger.

'I encourage you, please to contact the Canadian government and ask them, plead with them, to co-operate with the Philippine government to stop the bombings and the problems going on here.

‘I know there are people who can find a way to do this, please, please help us.’


Also kidnapped last month were resort owner Kjartan Sekkinstad, right, and his Filipino girlfriend, left.

The Norwegian national spoke next: 'I am Sekkinstad. The owner of Ocean View Marina. Please meet the demands or we are possibly dead.’

Next, the second Canadian issued his plea: 'My name is John Ridsdel I confirm we were taken captive from the Ocean View Marina in Samal Island.

'I’d like to add and give the message from all of us, we beseech, we urge, we beseech the Canadian government to please, please help us and the Philippine government so that negotiations can start about their demands.'

Also kidnapped last month were resort owner Kjartan Sekkinstad, right, and his Filipino girlfriend, left Also kidnapped last month were resort owner Kjartan Sekkinstad, right, and his Filipino girlfriend, left

Finally, one of the terrorists issued his threat: 'I deliver a message to the Canadian government and to the Philippine government.

'We want your co-operation with us, and to meet all the requirements. Number one, there must be no military operation. There must be no artillery attack that is harmful against us. Once you reach our requirements, then we can talk about negotiations and demands.’

The Canadian government said: 'The Government of Canada is aware of the hostage-taking of two Canadian citizens in the Philippines.

'Canada is pursuing all appropriate channels to seek further information.

'The Government of Canada will not comment or release any information which may compromise ongoing efforts and risk endangering the safety of Canadian citizens abroad.'

Shocking CCTV shows gunmen abduct tourists in the Philippines

The group of extremists lead the captive hostages across a bridge after storming the marina The group of extremists lead the captive hostages across a bridge after storming the marina

A man can be seen shooing the prisoners across the bridge, while several more heavily armed men follow in the rear A man can be seen shooing the prisoners across the bridge, while several more heavily armed men follow in the rear

Grainy CCTV film shows the moment the kidnappers - armed with pistols and machine guns - marched the tourist hostages across a bridge after storming a marina in search of foreign prisoners.

With the island only accessible by boat, the kidnappers docked under cover of darkness and began breaking into tourists' yachts in a bid to find valuable Western captives they could hold for ransom.

Warships and helicopter gunships have been deployed to lead the manhunt to find the four hostages.

The gunmen captured four tourists in the attack, who are likely to be held captive for ransom.

Authorities said the kidnappers' first attempted to storm the yacht of tourists Steven and Kazuka Tripp.

However, when the couple fought back and leaped off the boat, the attackers turned their attentions to other foreigners staying on yachts on the island.

The militants went straight for foreigners' boats where many of the 30 guests dived into the water in a desperate bid to avoid being taken.

John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, 50, were taken at gunpoint, alongside 56-year-old Norwegian resort manager Kjartan Sekkinstad and his girlfriend.

Mr Ridsdel is the president of mining company TVI Minerals Processing, an organisation based in the Philippines.

After leaving the island - located just off the coast of the mainland island of Mindanao - the captors then fled out to sea with their hostages on board two motorized boats.


Army Captain Alberto Caber, regional military spokesman, uses a map to show the coverage GETTY IMAGES

Alberto Caber, a Philippines army captain, said: 'Four people were taken but we do not know what group was behind the attack. It appeared the foreigners were the targets, they were not taken at random.'

A special taskforce named 'Oceanview' has now been established, comprising members of the country's special anti-kidnapping teams.

Caber also said a naval blockade, backed by two helicopter gunships, was set up around the island to stop the kidnappers from reaching Basilan Island farther to the southwest where Abu Sayyaf militants have strongholds.

Abu Sayyaf, which has about 400 gunmen, was recently declared a terrorist group by a Philippine court and is on Washington's list of terror organizations.

Three navy ships were sent to search and intercept the gunmen's boat, while ground units were also alerted to locate possible landing sites in southeastern Mindanao.

Military sources said the gunmen spoke English and Tagalog, the language spoken widely in the Philippines.

A note was found at the resort a few hours after the kidnapping, which stated: 'Justice for our commander. By NPA.'

However, authorities do not yet know if it is valid and warn the group Abu Sayyaf may be responsible

TOURISTS STAYING ON YACHTS


Pictured is the resort's marina, where tourists staying on yachts leaped into the water in a bid to evade the kidnappers

Military and police officials were surprised by the latest attack, which came as a reminder of volatile security in the south despite recent peace initiatives.

The Davao region has been relatively peaceful for more than a decade.

In 2014, a peace agreement with the largest Muslim rebel group in the south ended 45 years of conflict that had killed about 120,000 people and displaced two million.

In 2001, al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Islamist militants tried but failed to kidnap foreign tourists on Samal island's Pearl Farm resort. Three security men died fighting the attackers.

The four people, including two Canadian tourists, a Norwegian and a Filipino woman were taken at gunpoint during a raid on Monday at the Oceanview resort (pictured) on Samal Island The four people, including two Canadian tourists, a Norwegian and a Filipino woman were taken at gunpoint during a raid on Monday at the Oceanview resort (pictured) on Samal Island

The beautiful resort claims to be a gated community while also boasting of '24 hour security'


RESORT. This picture of the Holiday Oceanview Resort was taken during the visit of President Benigno Aquino III in the Island Garden City of Samal in Barangay Camudmud, Island Garden City of Samal early this month. In this same resort, three foreign nationals and a Filipina were kidnapped by armed men Monday night. (Ace R. Morandante/davaotoday.com)

Samal Island is near Davao City, in the southern Philippines. Accessible only by boat, the kidnappers fled with their captives towards the mainland Samal Island is near Davao City, in the southern Philippines. Accessible only by boat, the kidnappers fled with their captives towards the mainland

Samal island, a short boat ride from the southern commercial centre of Davao on Mindanao island, is famed for powdery white sand beaches and dive spots, with resorts there charging up to $500 a night.

The area, about 800 kilometres (500 miles) southeast of Manila, is a popular stop for foreign tourists who sail around the nation's many tropical islands.

The Holiday Oceanview Resort website claims to 'redefine the way you unwind', with townhouses, a hotel, spa, and marina all on offer for those looking to purchase a lot or stay in its marina.

Claiming to be popular with sailors from across the world, the self-described 'gated community' also boasts of '24 hour security' and its swimming pool, parks and children's playgrounds.

The Norwegian embassy in Manila released a short statement saying it was working to verify information about the kidnapping.

Olav David Sekkingstad, Kjartan Sekkinstad's father, told Bergens Tidende newspaper: 'We are obviously very concerned now.'

ABU SAYYAF HOSTAGE TAKING: ISLAMIST'S MERCILESS PURSUIT OF MONEY

Gracia and Martin Burnham, two U.S. missionaries who were kidnapped in 2001 and held in remote jungle, are pictured during their captivity. Mr Burnham died during a rescue attempt, while Mrs Burnham survived Gracia and Martin Burnham, two U.S. missionaries who were kidnapped in 2001 and held in remote jungle, are pictured during their captivity. Mr Burnham died during a rescue attempt, while Mrs Burnham survived

Abu Sayyaf militants are believed to be currently holding nine different hostages, including a Dutch man kidnapped three years ago, two Malaysians and a town mayor.

Dutch Birdwatcher Ewold Horn was captured alongside Swiss photographer Lorenzo Vinciguerra and remains in captivity.

They were both taken captive in Tawi-Tawi province as they were sailing on a bird-watching trip in February 2012.

Vinciguerra dramatically escaped the group's clutches late last year by slitting the commander's throat with a machete and fleeing.

He claimed to have told Horn to also run - but the Dutch man was 'very sick and very weak' and unable to do so.

Since his escape from captivity on the island of Jolo, Mindanao, little has been heard from his captors. It is not currently known where he is being held.

In May, Malaysian couple Thien Nyuk Fun and her husband Bernard Ted Fen were snatched from Malaysian's easternmost state.

Once the restaurant owners were kidnapped they were taken by speedboat across the southern Philippines island border.

Dutch Birdwatcher Ewold Horn (pictured) remains captive more than three years after he was kidnapped Dutch Birdwatcher Ewold Horn (pictured) remains captive more than three years after he was kidnapped

Two months later, their family publically called for Abu Sayyaf to release the couple - saying they both suffered medical conditions and would have no access to their medication.

Incredibly, the kidnappers were contacting the family at least once a week to demand huge ransoms, the Straits Times reported.

The group also holds Filippinos hostage - in April, the mayor of the town of Naga was kidnapped from her home.

Mayor Gemma Adana was at home when the militants broke inside and dragged her onto a speedboat, then fled out to sea and the vast network of Abu Sayyaf enclaves that are dotted across the area.

Taken to Sulu, reports in the weeks following her kidnapping stated her captors were demanding $2.26million in ransom.

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

Abu Sayyaf demands P2.8-B ransom for 3 foreigners By Jim Gomez (Associated Press) | Updated November 4, 2015 - 10:23am 5 540 googleplus0 0


Screenshot of video circulating online supposedly showing three foreign hostages, apparently speaking under duress, urging the Canadian and Philippine governments to stop the military assaults. Authorities were trying to verify the authenticity of the video, and the Philippine military said that they would reject any demands from the militants. Philstar.com/SITE Intelligence group, screenshot

MANILA, Philippines — Suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen have demanded more than $60 million, roughly P2.8 billion, for two Canadians and a Norwegian they are holding in the jungles of the southern Philippines in the largest ransom the Muslim militants have sought for their hostages in years.

Army Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado said Wednesday the Philippine government maintains a no-ransom policy, adding there would be no let-up in efforts by his troops to secure the hostages' freedom in the safest way possible.

In the video circulated online by the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi websites, the kidnappers and their captives said for the first time that the Abu Sayyaf was behind the Sept. 21 kidnappings in an upscale marina on the southern resort island of Samal. In the first video of the hostages last month, the kidnappers demanded a stop to military offensives but did not identify themselves.

In the latest video, the hostages and one of the mostly masked kidnappers said a ransom of 1 billion pesos ($21 million) must be paid for each of the captives to secure their freedom. The militant said the captives would be killed if the ransom was not paid but did not give any deadline.

One of the hostages, Canadian John Ridsdel, pleaded for Canada's prime minister and people to heed the ransom demand "as soon as possible or our lives are in great danger."

A militant, who did not wear a mask, pointed a knife at him and the two other captives as each of them spoke. A fourth female captive seized from Samal who has been identified by authorities as a Filipino citizen was not allowed to speak in the video.

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The hostages were seen sitting on a clearing with the more than a dozen heavily-armed militants standing behind them. Two black flags were displayed in the background.

Aside from Ridsdel, Philippine authorities have identified the other hostages as Canadian Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipino national Maritess Flor. They were abducted at gunpoint from a yacht-berthing resort on Samal in Davao del Norte province in the south, scene of a decades-long Muslim rebellion in the largely Roman Catholic nation.

The United States and the Philippines have separately blacklisted the Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist organization for kidnappings, beheadings, extortion and bomb attacks. The al-Qaida-linked militants have been weakened but have survived more than a decade of U.S.-backed offensives.

Following the Sept. 21 kidnappings, Philippine authorities vowed to strengthen security in the south. But three weeks later, gunmen abducted a former Italian Catholic missionary from his pizza restaurant in southern Zamboanga Sibugay province.

The abductions highlight the long-running security problems that have hounded the southern Philippines, a region with bountiful resources, but which also suffers from poverty, lawlessness and decades-long Muslim and communist insurgencies.

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Associated Press writer Teresa Cerojano contributed to this report.


PHILSTAR

Military steps up offensive vs Sayyaf kidnappers By Roel Pareño and Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 6, 2015 - 12:00am 0 69 googleplus0 0

The Abu Sayyaf demanded P1 billion for the release of each of the foreign hostages.


The military has stepped up its operations in Sulu after Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri ordered his commanders to keep the Abu Sayyaf on the run – to pressure the militants into releasing their hostages. On Tuesday, a second video of the hostages – Canadians John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, 50, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, and Hall’s Filipina girlfriend Marites Flor – was released by the militants. In the video, the Abu Sayyaf demanded P1 billion for the release of each of the foreign hostages. PHILSTAR FILE

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The military has sent more ground troops to Sulu in an intensified operation to rescue three Westerners and a Filipina seized by Abu Sayyaf bandits from a Samal Island resort in September.

A security official said soldiers have reported the discovery of three dead militants in Patikul town.

The military has stepped up its operations in Sulu after Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri ordered his commanders to keep the Abu Sayyaf on the run – to pressure the militants into releasing their hostages.

On Tuesday, a second video of the hostages – Canadians John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, 50, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, and Hall’s Filipina girlfriend Marites Flor – was released by the militants.

In the video, the Abu Sayyaf demanded P1 billion for the release of each of the foreign hostages.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, commander of the Joint Task Group Sulu (JTGS), said his troops ran into a group of Abu Sayyaf militants on Monday in Barangay Liang, Patikul town.

Arrojado said three Abu Sayyaf militants initially reported as wounded died Tuesday.

The slain Abu Sayyaf members were identified as Timhar Jauhari, Munar Abdulhair and Nasser Hadjail. Reported wounded was a certain Jani Kamlun.

At least three soldiers were wounded in the encounter with the militants at 1:45 p.m. last Monday.

Reports said the bandits unleashed a barrage of M203 rifle grenade attacks on the soldiers.

Meanwhile, government forces have recovered a black flag of international terrorist group ISIS and other items in an area in Sulu where Abu Sayyaf bandits were believed to have stayed.

Military officials, however, said they doubt if the bandits really have direct links to the Syria-based extremist group.

Troops from the Marine Battalion Landing Team 10 recovered the items in Sitio Lungon-Lungon, Barangay Kuppong in Indanan town, Arrojado said.

Arrojado did not give details on the operation.

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The statement on the discovery of the ISIS flags and paraphernalia came a day after the release of the second video of the hostages.

It was not clear if the area where the belongings were found had served as an encampment of local terrorists.

Also recovered were one long M16 magazine with one 5.56 ammunition, 37 pieces of 7.62 mm ammunition, a handheld radio with two spare batteries and headset, three mobile phones with SIM pack, two extra SIM packs, an upper hand guard M653, two micro SD adapter with a micro SD and two maps.

Also found were an empty box with government arsenal markings, a Moro National Liberation Front identification card with the name Aiwen Juddan, two mini solar panels, four military and two civilian backpacks and various military and police uniforms.

“They just want to be associated with the ISIS but the possession of the flag does not mean they are now connected with the group,” Armed Forces public affairs chief Col. Noel Detoyato said.

Meanwhile, the military assured delegates of the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit that they do not need to worry about their security despite the recent kidnapping of foreigners by the Abu Sayyaf.

“There is no reason to worry because the venues are controlled areas and are very secured. Intelligence gathering has been intensified. All security aspects are covered,” Detoyato said.

“There is no breakdown of law and order. Operations are being conducted to ensure the safety of the hostages,” he added.


GMA NEWS ONLINE

PHL still awaits China's confirmation for APEC Summit November 4, 2015 12:40pm Tags: apec2015, phlchinarift


President Benigno Aquino III is welcomed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Madame Peng Li Yuan upon arrival for the APEC Leaders' Meeting welcome dinner and cultural performance in China in November 2014. Malacañang Photo Bureau

China snubbing the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Manila remains a possibility, as President Xi Jinping has yet to accept the Philippine invitation two weeks before the meeting.

In a televised interview, Cabinet Secretary Jose Almendras said 20 heads of states have confirmed their attendance to the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting on November 18 and 19.

APEC comprises 21 member economies that include Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, US and Vietnam.

"We are still waiting for a confirmation from China. Everyone else is more or less confirmed already," Almendras said.

The Philippines, which is hosting the APEC meeting this year, has formally transmitted an invitation to China, President Benigno Aquino III said during the annual presidential forum of the Foreign Association Correspondents of the Philippines last week.

Speculations about China snubbing the Philippines' hosting of the APEC Summit are rooted in a territorial dispute between the Asian neighbors.

The Philippines is dismissing China's claims over a number of islands off the West Philippine Sea before an arbitration court in The Hague. The Asian giant, however, does not recognize the authority of the international tribunal to hear the case.

The Philippines scored some sort of victory in first round of the arbitration last Friday, when the court ruled it has jurisdiction to hear its territorial claims against China, which continues to press bilateral talks to settle the issue.

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Malacañang has refused to sit on the negotiating table with China. Aquino also vowed not to raise the territorial row during the APEC Summit although the President said he was open to a meeting with Xi on the sidelines of the leaders' meeting.

"Hindi pwedeng completely deny na mayroon kayong geo-political tensions... So, nagkakataon na pinag-uusapan iyon but more on the sidelines," International Relations Professor Richard Heydarian said in a separate interview on GMA News' "News to Go."

"Pero even if kung titignan mo iyong purely economic related investment issue, makikita mo rin iyong competition ng mga bansa," he added.

Philippine Finance Minister Cesar Purisima will welcome the Chinese President should he decide to attend the summit conference.

All member economies have sent their respective advance teams to inspect various venues of the summit, said Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr., director general of the APEC 2015 National Organizing Council.

US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin were among the first leaders to confirm their attendance to the APEC Summit. – Keith Richard Mariano/VS, GMA News

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

Palace: No signs Xi Jinping will snub APEC in Manila By Louis Bacani (philstar.com) | Updated November 4, 2015 - 5:51pm 0 0 googleplus0 0


President Benigno Aquino III is welcomed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Madame Peng Li Yuan upon arrival for the APEC Leaders' Meeting welcome dinner and cultural performance in China in November 2014. Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang expressed confidence on Wednesday that Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila this month.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said China has yet to confirm Xi's attendance to the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting (AELM) "but there are no indications that he will not go."

"Thus far, their home office has been working with us kasi may mga advance visits po 'yan, may mga advance teams. They are all represented," Valte said in a press briefing.

Considered as APEC's biggest event, the AELM will be held on November 18 and 19 in Metro Manila and will be attended by President Benigno Aquino III and 20 other heads of state.

Valte said more than 10 leaders have confirmed their attendance. Earlier, Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras said that Russian President Vladimir Putin and all other leaders except for Xi have confirmed attendance at the APEC summit.

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In an interview with reporters in Eastern Samar on Friday, Aquino said there is no reason to relate the West Philippine Sea dispute with Xi's decision to attend the APEC summit.

"Bahagi lang itong usapan na ito (sea dispute) sa relasyon natin sa Tsina. Siguro naman ay hindi magiging kabuuan ng desisyon nila ay dahil dito sa isang bahagi lang," Aquino said.

Aquino said he is open to hold a possible bilateral meeting with the Chinese leader if he attends the Manila event.

The president said he would want to discuss stability with Xi.

"All our governments are supposed to be there for the improvement of the lot of our people, improvement in their lives, and this can only happen if there’s stability. So if there is a central message that would be that I would want to convey," Aquino said in a forum with foreign media correspondents last week.

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

20 heads of state confirm APEC Manila attendance By Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) | Updated November 4, 2015 - 9:32am 14 58 googleplus0 0


Russian President Vladimir Putin corrects his jacket as he arrives to attends a meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club, Societies Between War and Peace, in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015. Putin is expected to arrive in the Philippines this month for the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting. AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko, pool

MANILA, Philippines — Russian President Vladimir Putin and 19 other leaders have confirmed their attendance at the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said on Wednesday.

Washington earlier confirmed that United States President Barack Obama will attend the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Manila from November 18 to 19.

READ: World leaders' full attendance in APEC Manila expected

Almendras said in an interview with ANC's Headstart that Obama may stay "a bit longer that originally anticipated."

"President Putin is coming, all have confirmed basically except... we're still waiting for a confirmation from China. Everyone else is more or less confirmed already," Almendras said.

APEC currently has 21 members:

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Australia Brunei Darussalam Canada Chile People's Republic of China Hong Kong, China Indonesia Japan Republic of Korea Malaysia Mexico New Zealand Papua New Guinea Peru Philippines Russia Singapore Chinese Taipei Thailand United States Vietnam Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National of Police have laid down massive preparations for the APEC Summit.

AFP spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla assured that there is no security threat to the security of the APEC.

"It’s safe to say that we have 21 heads of economies coming in so it’s 21 times more security preparations," Joint Task Force National Capital Region deputy commander Col. Vic Tomas said.

RELATED: AFP, PNP: No security threat at APEC


PHILSTAR

Chinese official: Parties must agree how to resolve disputes By Edith M. Lederer (Associated Press) | Updated November 6, 2015 - 8:39am 8 449 googleplus0 0


Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and Vietnamese Communist Party Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong wave at well-wishers as they leave a welcome ceremony at the presidential palace for the headquarters of the Vietnamese Communist Party for official talks in Hanoi Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015. Xi’s visit to Vietnam on Thursday comes as the two communist countries seek to mend ties strained over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Hoang Dinh Nam/Pool Photo via AP

UNITED NATIONS — A Chinese official praised the U.N. International Court of Justice on Thursday and called the Chinese government "an active advocator for peaceful settlement of disputes" — but he stressed that all parties must agree on the means to settle differences.

The comments by Xu Hong, director general of the Foreign Ministry's Department of Treaty and Law, were made as China is embroiled in disputes with several of its neighbors over its claims of sovereignty to almost all of the South China Sea.

Last week, over Chinese objections, another international tribunal, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, ruled it had jurisdiction in a case brought by the Philippines against China over competing maritime claims.

China has declared that it will not take part in arbitration with the Philippines, insisting on one-on-one negotiations with smaller rival claimants which analysts say would give Beijing the advantage because of its sheer size and clout.

Xu told a U.N. General Assembly meeting on the International Court of Justice — the U.N.'s primary judicial branch — that "China stands for proper settlement through negotiations, dialogue and consultations."

But he said the means of settling disputes should be based on "sovereign equality and in full respect for the wish of the states concerned."

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China, the Philippines and four other governments have overlapping claims across the vast South China Sea. Some disputed areas are believed to sit atop vast undersea deposits of oil and gas and straddle some of the world's busiest sea lanes.

Massive land reclamation by China over the past 18 months in the South China Sea has rattled countries in the region and caused concern in the United States, which supports the freedom of navigation and overflight in the area.

Last week, a U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Lassen, challenged China's claim to a 12-mile (19-kilometer) territorial limit around Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands.

While the Permanent Court of Arbitration has taken up the Philippines dispute with China, there have not been any cases yet at the International Court of Justice or ICJ, whose main function is to settle legal disputes submitted by countries.

Noting recent ICJ reports citing difficulties in terms of "human and financial resources," Xu told the General Assembly that China believes the court should have the resources it needs to carry out its "effective" and "high-quality judicial activities."

"China is consistently committed to settling disputes through friendly consultations and will as always support the ICJ in fulfilling its mandate," he said.

Yet China has not made a statement recognizing the ICJ's jurisdiction.

Hypothetically, however, another state could bring a case to the court, based on a treaty to which China is party and which says that disputes can be sent to the ICJ.


PHILSTAR

No joint declaration at Asia defense meet amid sea tensions By Rober Burns and Eileen Ng (Associated Press) | Updated November 4, 2015 - 11:46am 5 135 googleplus0 0


China's Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, center, shakes hands with India's Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar before the start of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defense Ministers' Meeting Plus in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. AP

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Divisions within Asia over China's claims in the disputed South China Sea spilled over Wednesday to a meeting of U.S. and Asian defense ministers, where China insisted the group make no public mention of the waterway in a joint declaration intended as a public display of unity.

A senior American official traveling with Defense Secretary Ash Carter said plans for a joint statement were canceled, reflecting a split with China and perhaps other Asian nations over citing the South China Sea issue. The U.S. official spoke on condition of anonymity because the defense ministers were still in closed-door meetings.

A Malaysian official, whose country hosted the talks, confirmed the joint declaration was scrapped and will be replaced by a chairman's statement. The official declined to give details.

The U.S. official said that China, which like the United States is not a member of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations but was attending the defense ministers' meeting as an invited partner, was adamant that the meeting's final public statement omit any mention of the South China Sea. The Americans argued that it would be better to make no joint statement at all rather than issue one that omitted mention of the contentious South China Sea issue.

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Carter was expected to hold a news conference later Wednesday.

China's claims in the South China Sea are disputed by several countries in the region, including Malaysia, which is hosting the meeting.

It was not clear what Carter or other attendees wanted the meeting's final public statement to say about the South China Sea, which is a highly trafficked waterway with longstanding territorial disputes.

Carter met with his Chinese counterpart, Chang Wanquan on Tuesday evening, and U.S. officials said afterward that Chang repeated the Chinese government's earlier criticisms of U.S. naval movements in the South China Sea. They said he called the U.S. actions provocative and illegal, but they also said the exchanges between Carter and Chang were cordial.

The U.S. officials who briefed reporters on the dispute about mentioning the South China Sea in the group's final statement said that it reflected divisions in the region created by China's reclamation of coral reefs and other land formations in the waterway.

The U.S. asserts that China is militarizing these formations, but Chinese President Xi Jinping told President Barack Obama at the White House in September that China has no such intentions.


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