Philippines, China address ‘disputes’ in South China Sea
Manila, Apr 22 (EFE).- The foreign ministers of the Philippines and China met Saturday in Manila to address the “differences” in the sovereignty conflict that both nations maintain in the South China Sea.
The representative of Beijing, Qin Gang, said he advocated “resolving” the disagreements “through dialogue” and maintaining “our commitments for peace and stability in the region and the world,” in the opening speech of the bilateral meeting.
Philippine Foreign Minister Enrique Manalo spoke of trade relations between the two countries and the “developments achieved in previous meetings” regarding territorial disagreements, although “work remains to be done.”
The Chinese minister is also scheduled to make a “courtesy call” to meet with the Philippine president.
This meeting is the highest level after the visit to Beijing in January by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, to that of his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
Since then, tensions between the two countries have continued to escalate over claims to a handful of islands and atolls in the South China Sea, which worsened after recent allegations by the Philippines of the use of military lasers by Chinese ships against its coast guards.
However, both ministers omitted in their respective keynote addresses to mention the renewed United States-Philippines military alliance, which will give American troops access to four new bases on Philippine soil.
Previously, Beijing categorically opposed the new agreement, announced on Apr. 3, since one of these new bases will be located some 400 kilometers from Taiwan. The territory is a self-governing island that Beijing has not ruled out invading and that Washington would in principle defend.
China and the Philippines are in a historic territorial conflict over the sovereignty of Scarborough Atoll and part of the Spratly Archipelago.
In addition to the Philippines and China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei claim part of this strategic sea, through which 30 percent of global trade circulates and which is home to 12 percent of the world’s fishing grounds, as well as oil and gas deposits. EFE