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Manila opts for S China Sea talks with Beijing
August 24, 2016, 2:25 pm

China, which claims about 2 million square km of the maritime territory, has always maintained that “the situation in the South China Sea is stable [Xinhua]

China, which claims about 2 million square km of the maritime territory, has always maintained that “the situation in the South China Sea is stable [Xinhua]


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte may have significantly calmed tensions over the South China Sea dispute when he told local media that he expects to discuss Manila’s claims to the maritime body with Beijing before year’s end.

It is “better to continually engage China in a diplomatic dialogue rather than anger officials there,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

His statements come just a month after an international court of arbitration in the Hague ruled that China’s “historic” claims to most of the South China Sea were invalid.

China called the ruling a “farce”. At the time, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he would not accept any proposition or action based on the ruling issued unilaterally initiated by the former Philippine government.

In an approach that is a stark move away from the former government’s approach to the dispute, Duterte also said that he would not raise the Hague ruling when he attends an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Laos next month.

However, he also warned China of a “bloody confrontation” should talks fail. He said that while he may not press for the Hague ruling, “other countries” may do so instead, particularly the US.

Previous sessions of ASEAN summits have often been rocky as the former Phillipine government would raise the issue of the South China Sea dispute to the agenda.

Duterte’s new outreach to China also comes a few weeks after both Beijing and Moscow announced that they would be holding joint naval exercises – their fifth – in the South China Sea.

Beijing claims 90 per cent of the South China Sea, a maritime region believed to hold a wealth of untapped oil and gas reserves and through which roughly $4.5 trillion of ship-borne trade passes every year. In addition to Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have contesting claims on these waters.

Russia has backed Beijing’s position that direct talks should take place between the affected parties and the region should guard against “external interference“.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

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