Manila, Nov 18 (EFE).- Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. discussed their territorial disputes in the South China Sea, official sources said Friday.
The meeting, the first face-to-face between the two leaders, took place on Thursday in Bangkok on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum.
Xi insisted that both countries “must stick to friendly consultation” and “handle differences and disputes properly,” according to a statement released by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday.
“They should work together to reject unilateralism and acts of bullying, defend fairness and justice, and safeguard peace and stability in the region,” Xi added.
The Filipino Department of Foreign Affairs reported that both leaders reaffirmed their support for the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea and agreed that maritime disputes do not “define the totality of Philippine-China relations.”
The Code of Conduct on the South China Sea seeks a minimum consensus among countries with territorial conflicts over the islands in the area, has been brought up by both the Philippines and China in recent months.
“Our foreign policy refuses to fall into the trap of a Cold War mindset. Ours is an independent foreign policy guided by our national interest and commitment to peace,” said Marcos.
China and Philippines have territorial conflict over several islands and atolls in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims on historical grounds.
The meeting between the two leaders comes ahead of US Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to the Philippines on Sunday.
Harris is scheduled to meet with Marcos to strengthen bilateral relations after a turbulent six-years former President Rodrigo Duterte, during which Manila titled towards China at the expense of ties with Washington.
Harris will visit the Philippine island of Palawan, to the southeast of the country and the coast closest to the Spratly Islands, where China has been constructing military infrastructure in multiple atolls inside Philippine’s maritime borders for years.
According to experts, this visit could put to test relations between Philippines and China.
The US and Philippines have strengthened their relations in defense matters since Marcos Jr. assumed power.
Washington has significantly increased support for Manila and military presence in the Philippines to counter Beijing’s ambitions of expansion in the region. EFE