Aquino on China: We’ve done what we can
President Benigno Aquino III on Friday declined to comment on the retracted statement made by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), which is said to prove disagreement within the bloc.
Instead, Aquino, who is about to step down from office, said he thinks his administration had “done what (it) can to advance having a resolution that is fair to all parties concerned.”
“At the end of the day, I would want to have the country prepared to address this challenge,” he said, referring to the territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines is awaiting the final outcome of its arbitration case against China filed before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Netherlands.
Aquino said he is always “curious” about China’s actions, “which might impact international relations.”
“Everybody is presuming that there is a decision by the arbitral tribunal that will come out sometime soon,” he said. “We want to try and have a picture of what the post-decision situation will be.”
Asked about the strongly-worded Asean statement released by and immediately retracted by Malaysia, Aquino said he would have to talk with Foreign Affairs Secretary Jose Rene Almendras first.
“I would like to get his take on it before making any comments on — Was there a previous statement? Did they take it back? Was it modified? How was it modified if so? What was the context?” he said. “So I’d rather ask him first and I’ll wait his report.”
The statement released by Malaysia warned that China’s recent actions in the disputed areas of South China Sea, which included the building of artificial islands, had “the potential to undermine peace.”
But the Malaysian foreign ministry recalled the statement hours later because there was a need to make “urgent amendments.”
READ: ASEAN retracts South China Sea criticism — Malaysia
A report from the Straits Times said Laos and Cambodia, countries both dependent on China for investment and aid, objected to the joint statement.
Indonesia also claimed that the statement was issued “in error.”
Of the 10 member states of the Asean, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and Vietnam are in dispute with China over parts of South China Sea.
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