Sun, 01 Oct 2023

Manila [Philippines], March 25 (ANI): Protesting over China's aggressive behaviour in the South China Sea, Philippine diplomats on Friday confronted their Chinese counterparts in closed-door talks over territorial disputes in the busy waterway, reported The Manila Times.

They also protested the targeting of a Philippine coast guard ship with a military-grade laser, but no resolution was reached on the issues, an official said. On February 6, 2023, a Chinese coast guard ship aimed a military-grade laser that briefly blinded some crew members of a Philippine patrol vessel off a disputed shoal.

The Chinese delegation, led by Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong, held two days of talks starting Thursday with Philippine counterparts, led by Foreign Undersecretary Theresa Lazaro and reviewed overall relations. The two sides focused on their territorial disputes Friday, the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila said.

The talks opened with both sides citing an agreement between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who made a state visit to China in early January, to manage the territorial conflicts amicably while enhancing economic ties and other aspects of a near half-century of diplomatic relations, reported The Manila Times.

China's representatives responded mostly by reiterating Beijing's claim of sovereignty in most of the South China Sea and citing intrusions by Philippine vessels, the official said.

Territorial disputes in the busy waterway have long loomed as a potential flashpoint in Asia and have become a sensitive front in the regional rivalry between China and the United States, reported The Manila Times.

Washington lays no claim to the contested waters but has challenged Beijing's extensive claims, including by deploying its warships and fighter jets and repeatedly warning that it would help defend the Philippines -- a treaty ally -- if Philippine forces, ships and aircraft are attacked.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims in the seaway, which sits atop vast deposits of oil and gas.

In recent years, the South China Sea has emerged as a major potential flashpoint in the Asia Pacific.

Not only does the strategic waterway hold vast resources of fish, oil and gas, but about a third of global shipping passes through it - worth about USD 3.4 trillion in 2016, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) China Power Project, reported CNN.

China also conducts regular military exercises in much of the South China Sea and maintains a large presence of coast guard and fishing vessels in the disputed waters, which has frequently stoked tensions with other claimants. (ANI)

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