Philippines urges China to curb coercion, intimidation over sea dispute

Manila, Mar 24 (EFE).- The Philippines urged China on Friday to curb “coercion and intimidation” in their dispute over islands in the South China Sea during a meeting in Manila between the vice foreign ministers of each country.

The two nations dispute several islands and reefs in the South China Sea, which are claimed almost entirely by Beijing, despite the fact that some lie less than 200 miles from the western Philippine coastline, the limit set by the United Nations to determine sovereignty.

“Both our countries’ leaders agreed that maritime issues should be addressed through diplomacy and dialogue and never through coercion and intimidation,” Philippine foreign ministry undersecretary Theresa Lazaro told a press conference in Manila at the opening of the 7th Bilateral Consultations Mechanism on the South China Sea between the two countries, the first since the pandemic.

China’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Sun Weidong said Manila and Beijing should “stay committed to good neighborliness, deepen mutual cooperation, enhance mutual understanding and trust.”

“In the past years, through friendly dialogue and consultations, the two countries have generally managed and effectively dealt with our differences on maritime issues. And we have also advanced our practical cooperation and our mutual trust,” he added.

In January, the two officials led the diplomatic delegations during the meeting between China’s President Xi Jinping and his Philippine counterpart, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., held in Beijing, in which both leaders agreed to promote this consultation mechanism to seek consensus on the sovereignty issues. However, the territorial dispute has since escalated.

In February, Manila said it would denounce through its coast guard every incursion or intimidation maneuver by Chinese vessels after it accused China’s coast guard of using a military-grade laser on its Filipino counterparts on Feb. 6.

On the other hand, China criticized the January pact between Washington and Manila that gives US troops access to four new military bases in the Southeast Asian archipelago, with the aim of containing Beijing’s movements in Taiwan and the South China Sea, which Beijing said threatens regional peace.

In 2016 the Philippines won a landmark ruling in The Hague’s international arbitration court that repudiated China’s claims to the South China Sea.

The Philippines, which moved closer to China during Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency, has turned the tide since Marcos Jr. won the election last year, seeking to strengthen its historic security alliance with the US, especially amid an increase in territorial harassment by Chinese vessels. EFE


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