China, Philip­pines agree to di­a­logue over Sea dis­putes

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BEIJING: Beijing and Manila will re­sume talks on their South China Sea dis­putes, both sides said yes­ter­day, an ap­par­ent diplo­matic vic­tory for China af­ter an in­ter­na­tional tri­bunal dis­missed its claims to the wa­ters. The an­nounce­ment came dur­ing Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s visit to China where he sought eco­nomic sup­port from the Asian gi­ant and an­nounced his “sep­a­ra­tion” from long­time ally the US. “A bi­lat­eral con­sul­ta­tion mech­a­nism can be use­ful, which will meet reg­u­larly on cur­rent and other is­sues of con­cern to ei­ther side on the South China Sea,” the coun­tries said in a joint state­ment.

The move to hold talks, sus­pended sev­eral years ago, will please Beijing, which has a long­stand­ing pol­icy of in­sist­ing ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes be dis­cussed di­rectly be­tween the par­ties, in an en­vi­ron­ment where an­a­lysts say it has more clout due to its eco­nomic size, rather than in mul­ti­lat­eral fo­rums.

The joint state­ment made no ref­er­ence to a rul­ing by a tri­bunal at the Per­ma­nent Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion (PCA) in The Hague ear­lier this year, which ruled that there was no le­gal ba­sis to China’s claims to nearly all of the sea — a ver­dict Beijing dis­missed ve­he­mently. Duterte ini­tially told re­porters he would raise the rul­ing in China, but later said that do­ing so would be rude to his hosts and that ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes would take a “back­seat” as he heaped praise on Beijing.

“Both sides af­firm that con­tentious is­sues are not the sum to­tal of the Philip­pines-China bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship,” the joint state­ment added. It con­firmed that China would lift a ban on im­ports from Philip­pine banana and pineap­ple grow­ers which it im­posed in 2012 as mar­itime ten­sions mounted. China seized con­trol of Scar­bor­ough Shoal, a fish­ing ground in the Philip­pines’ ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zone, the same year.

The two coun­tries agreed to step up de­fense ex­changes and co-op­er­a­tion be­tween their coast­guards, though no de­tails were given. Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping will visit the Philip­pines at an un­spec­i­fied time, it added. Beijing greeted Duterte with mil­i­tary hon­ors and of­fered the Philip­pines $9 bil­lion in soft loans for devel­op­ment projects. It has also pledged to sup­port his con­tro­ver­sial war on drugs which has seen thou­sands killed. — AFP

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