China’s Xi presses Philip­pines, Viet­nam to keep South China Sea is­sues bi­lat­eral

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BEI­JING: China’s Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, in sep­a­rate meet­ings with the lead­ers of the Philip­pines and Viet­nam, said dis­putes over the South China Sea should be re­solved bi­lat­er­ally, state media re­ported yes­ter­day.

The com­ments un­der­score Bei­jing’s op­po­si­tion to in­volv­ing other coun­tries or in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions in the mar­itime ter­ri­to­rial dis­pute, where claimants to the wa­ters also in­clude Malaysia, Brunei and Tai­wan. Ex­perts say China prefers a ‘di­vide and con­quer’ tac­tic over al­low­ing its op­po­nents to group to­gether. Bei­jing has also re­peat­edly blamed the United States for stir­ring up trou­ble in the South China Sea, and op­poses an ar­bi­tra­tion tri­bunal’s July rul­ing in fa­vor of the Philip­pines, re­ject­ing China’s claims to eco­nomic rights across large swathes of the wa­ters.

Dur­ing a meet­ing in Peru, Xi told Philip­pines Pres­i­dent Rodrigo Duterte “to ac­tively mull mar­itime co­op­er­a­tion and pro­mote pos­i­tive in­ter­ac­tion on the sea,” turn­ing the South China Sea into “an op­por­tu­nity for bi­lat­eral friendly co­op­er­a­tion,” said the of­fi­cial Xin­hua news agency. That sen­ti­ment was echoed by Duterte, Xin­hua re­ported. The Philip­pines pres­i­dent has over­seen a rapid im­prove­ment of pre­vi­ously frosty re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries since tak­ing of­fice in June.

The Philip­pines “is will­ing to prop­erly ad­dress mar­itime is­sues with China through di­a­logue and con­sul­ta­tion,” said Xin­hua. Xi made sim­i­lar over­tures to Viet­nam Pres­i­dent Tran Dai Quang while at­tend­ing a sum­mit of Asia-Pa­cific coun­tries in Lima.

The Chi­nese pres­i­dent said the two coun­tries should “solve dis­putes through bi­lat­eral con­sul­ta­tions and di­a­logues, ad­here to a co­op­er­a­tive path of ‘shelv­ing dif­fer­ences and en­gag­ing in joint de­vel­op­ment,’ and prop­erly ad­dress prob­lems in order to main­tain regional peace and tran­quil­ity,” Xin­hua said. The Chi­nese news agency did not say whether Quang also ad­dressed the South China Sea. On Thurs­day, a US think tank re­ported that Viet­nam is ex­tend­ing a run­way on an is­land it claims in the South China Sea, in ap­par­ent re­sponse to China’s build­ing of mil­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties on ar­ti­fi­cial is­lands in the re­gion.

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