Philippines, China agree to keep peace in West Philippine Sea
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines and China have agreed not to let disputes in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) affect friendly relations, the two countries said in a joint statement Friday.
“The two sides reaffirmed their commitments to respect and abide by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea,” they said after Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi held talks in Beijing.
The declaration signed in 2002 between China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations seeks to resolve their territorial disputes by peaceful means and in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“Both ministers exchanged views on the maritime disputes and agreed not to let the maritime disputes affect the broader picture of friendship and cooperation between the two countries,” the statement said following the three-hour talks at the Great Hall of the People in downtown Beijing Friday afternoon.
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping described the meeting as “productive”.
“China is committed to remain a good neighbor, a good friend and a good partner with the Philippines,” Xi was quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency as saying.
The two countries agreed to “maintain close political cooperation including high-level visits and defense and security cooperation.”
Del Rosario flew to China on Yang’s invitation Thursday amid rising tensions over the two countries’ conflicting claims in the potentially resource-rich Spratly Islands.
The Philippines has previously accused Chinese forces of opening fire on Filipino fishermen, shadowing an oil exploration vessel employed by a Philippine firm and putting up structures in Manila-claimed areas in the Spratlys.
In the latest incident, it said an unidentified foreign plane harassed a group of Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea last month with a flyover that the Philippine Navy said appeared to be a warning.
Del Rosario’s visit comes as the navies of the Philippines and the United States engage in 11 days of military exercises close to the West Philippine Sea, war games that have been seen as aimed at the recent Chinese provocations.
The Philippines and China, along with Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan, each claim all or part of the West Philippine Sea—particularly the Spratlys, a chain of islets in the area that is believed to sit on vast mineral resources.
Later Friday, Del Rosario met Xi, who is widely expected to become China’s top leader in 2013 when current President Hu Jintao steps down.
During talks, both sides also agreed to make the upcoming visit to China by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III “a full success,” the statement said. No dates for the visit have been announced.
“Both ministers are committed to focus on advancing practical cooperation for the benefit of both countries and people,” the statement said. With Agence France-Presse