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CNN: China and Philippines agree to ‘manage differences’ on South China Sea

5-1-2023 |

Сhinese leader Xi Jinping and his Philippine counterpart Ferdinand Marcos Jr. have agreed to strengthen economic ties and resume talks on oil exploration, as they look to revive their economies amid the pandemic downturn and friction over contested areas of the South China Sea.

Xi met with Marcos Jr. on Wednesday during the Philippine President’s first state visit to Beijing, where the two leaders agreed to “appropriately manage differences,” according to a joint statement released Thursday.

The statement said the leaders had an “in-depth and candid” discussion about the situation in the South China Sea and “reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace and stability in the region.”

During the talks, Manila and Beijing also agreed to resume negotiations on oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea that were halted last June due to constitutional challenges and issues of sovereignty.

Marcos Jr. had previously said his country would pursue oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea even without a deal with China, which claims almost all of the 1.3 million square mile South China Sea as its own, though other territories, including the Philippines, have competing – and sometimes overlapping – claims on certain areas.

The Philippines has repeatedly accused the Chinese vessels of harassing Filipino fishers in the region, and in a statement released Wednesday, Marcos Jr. says he raised the issue with Xi during their meeting in Beijing.

In the statement, Marcos Jr. said Xi promised to “find a solution” that would allow Philippine fishermen to operate in the Southeast Asian country’s natural fishing grounds.

“We also discussed what we can do to move forward, to avoid any possible mistakes, misunderstandings that could trigger a bigger problem than what we already have,” he added.

The Philippines has long been balancing America’s strategic interest in the Pacific alongside China’s geopolitical and economic rise.

While the Philippines is a longstanding defense ally of the United States, previous leader Rodrigo Duterte sought closer relations with China during his six years in power, setting aside its territorial spat in exchange for Chinese investments.

Source: CNN