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South China Sea issues being handled ‘properly’, Xi tells Duterte

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BEIJING (AP) — Seeking to put a positive spin on a relationship that never yielded the expected benefits, Chinese leader Xi Jinping told incumbent Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday that the two nations had “properly” handled the sensitive issue. of the disputed South China Sea.

Xi made the remarks in a phone conversation with Duterte, who forged closer ties with Beijing after taking office in 2016.

Despite more comfortable relations, however, sporadic territorial disputes persisted, and Beijing had limited success in separating the Philippines from its treaty ally, the United States.

Xi made no mention of differences, saying the parties “have adhered to the important consensus reached, adhered to good-neighbourly and friendly cooperation, insisted on properly handling differences, and insisted on working together for common development.” “.

“The good handling of the South China Sea issue by the two sides has provided an important basis for China-Philippines friendly cooperation, benefited both peoples, and effectively safeguarded regional peace and stability,” Xi said. , quoted by the official Xinhua news agency. .

“China’s policy towards the Philippines maintains continuity and stability, and (China) is willing to work with the Philippines to promote the continuous and healthy development of China-Philippine relations and continuously progress to a new level,” he said. Mr. Xi said.

Duterte is limited to one term and the Philippines holds presidential elections on May 9.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, as well as its rich fish stocks and underwater mineral resources. This has locked it in an increasingly tense territorial stalemate in the busy waterway with rival claimants the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

China’s seizure of Scarborough Shoal prompted the Philippines to take disputes to international arbitration before Duterte took office. In 2016, a UN-backed tribunal struck down most of China’s claims and said it violated Filipinos’ right to fish on the bank.

China dismissed the decision as a sham and continues to defy it, but allowed Filipino fishermen to return to the bench under Duterte.

In March, U.S. Indo-Pacific Commander Adm. John C. Aquilino told The Associated Press aboard a US Navy reconnaissance plane that China had fully militarized three of the seven islands it had built in the disputed Spratlys archipelago in the South China Sea. , despite a promise from Xi not to.

Chinese weapons systems on the man-made islands include anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems, laser and jamming equipment and military aircraft.

China responded by saying that its deployment of “necessary national defense facilities on its own territory is a recognized right of every sovereign country and is in accordance with international law, which is beyond reproach.”

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