Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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Philippines Says Exclusion of South China Sea Verdict in ASEAN Statement not a Victory for China

South China Sea Verdict.

(Photo : Getty Images.) The Philippines has dismissed the perception that the failure of ASEAN foreign ministers to include the South China Sea verdict in a joint statement is a victory for China.

The Philippines said on Tuesday that the failure of foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to include the Permanent Court of Arbitration's (PCA) verdict on the South China Sea dispute in their joint statement following a recent meeting in Laos, must not be seen as a victory for China, Reuters reported.

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ASEAN foreign ministers on Monday unilaterally agreed that the joint statement of the 49th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting would not make any direct reference to the South China Sea verdict. A deadlock over the statement was broken only after the Philippines dropped its demand that the international arbitration court's verdict and China's need to respect it is categorically mentioned in the statement.           

"I am just saying this to dispel the reports that have been said that China came out victorious in the ASEAN meeting because we precisely agreed to not mention the arbitral award," the Philippines Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay told reporters in Manila.  "But that (was) not the object of our meeting in ASEAN. The arbitral award is a matter between China and the Philippines."

Yasay insisted that the joint communiqué must be seen as a victory for China. Instead, he said that South East Asian countries showed their commitment to remain united to ensure peace in the region.

The Philippines' demand to include the PCA ruling in the ASEAN joint statement was backed by Vietnam and other claimants within the 10=member ASEAN group.  The demand was strongly backed by the U.S. as well.

However, Beijing's main ally Cambodia came to China's rescue, as it strongly protested the demand. Cambodia's protest led to a deadlock on the joint statement on Sunday. The deadlock was broken on Monday after hours of negotiation.

The joint statement issued on Monday was devoid of any mention of the South China Sea Verdict. However, without naming China, the statement specifically said that it is concerned about land reclamations and escalation of activities in the disputed maritime territory.

Many experts were quick to describe Monday's statement as a major diplomatic victory for China. China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi later publicly thanked Cambodia for its support.

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