China’s Vice Premier Meets Duterte Amid Tensions Over South China Sea
China's Vice Premier Wang Yang met Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday to reaffirm their peace vows amid latest tension over South China Sea, which erupted following Filipino defence minister's last week revelation that Chinese ships recently intruded into Manila's territory.
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"Both sides reaffirmed the stronger bilateral ties between Philippines and China. Both noted the progress being made in broadening cooperation," Philippines spokesperson, Ernesto Abella, said in a text message. Abella added that Beijing and Manila also agreed on "peaceful settlement of all disputes."
According to reports, Wang and Duterte also discussed about issues related to terrorism and pirates during the talks. Furthermore, the Chinese vice premier reiterated Beijing's commitment that it will follow through all the investment agreements signed during Duterte's historic visit to China last year.
Wang's four day visit to Philippines, which began on Thursday, is result of the recent thaw in China and Philippines bilateral relationship. The unexpected bonhomie in the relationship began after Duterte began to revamp Manila's pro American foreign policy soon after assuming office last year. He paid a historic visit to China in October last year, signifying the importance he attached to improving relation with once long time rival.
Meanwhile, Wang is reported to have carried investment deals and loans worth $6 billion to Philippines. The economic assistance is seen as China's return gift to Manila for its recent overtures and subsequently distancing from its long time ally the U.S.
Filipino Defence Minister Accuses China's intrusion in South China Sea
Last week, Philippines Defence Minister Delfin Lorenzana claimed that several Chinese ships were recently spotted in Manila's administrated territory in the South China Sea region. He also made a startling claim that a satellite images provided one of its allies recently detected Chinese ships carrying out surveys in the Benham Rise.
Lorenzana's claim set off round of heated statements between Manila and Beijing. Duterte immediately staked open claim over the Benham Rise, while China said that its ships had every right to conduct freedom of navigation in the disputed waters.
The maritime tensions have been the focal point between China and Philippines, with South China Sea being the most contagious flashpoint in their bilateral relationship.