China and Philippines try not to let South China Sea dispute overshadow relationship

  • The two sides meet for talks in Manila against a backdrop of rising tensions in the disputed waters
  • China is also reported to have expressed its opposition to a plan to give the US access to more Philippine military base

The territorial dispute in the South China Sea should not solely define the relationship between China and the Philippines, senior diplomats from the two countries have said.

Chinese foreign vice-minister Sun Weidong has been visiting Manila this week for talks, which are being held amid a backdrop of increasing tensions in the South China Sea and efforts by the US and the Philippines to strengthen their military alliance.
Sun’s visit heralded the first face-to-face talks between the two sides since July 2019 and on Thursday he met Philippine Foreign Minister Enrique Manalo and told him that it was in both countries’ interests to have a stable relationship.
“The current international and regional situation is undergoing a profound and complex evolution,” Sun said, adding that the two sides should “deepen political mutual trust, focus on pragmatic cooperation, continue to put the South China Sea issue in the proper place in bilateral relations”.

In a separate meeting with Philippine foreign undersecretary Theresa Lazaro, the two sides reaffirmed the importance of managing differences through dialogue “to maintain the main theme and general direction of friendly relations”, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.

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