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China, Philippines to restart oil exploration talks in South China Sea


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Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his Philippine counterpart Ferdinand Marcos Jr. have agreed to boost economic ties and resume talks on oil exploration, as they seek to revive their economies amid the pandemic downturn and friction over trade. disputed areas of the South China Sea.

Xi met Marcos Jr. on Wednesday during the Philippine president’s first state visit to Beijing, where the two leaders agreed to ‘continue to properly handle maritime issues through friendly consultation,’ according to a Chinese ministry reading. Foreign Affairs.

Reading added that the two sides would “resume negotiations on oil and gas exploration, promote cooperation on oil and gas exploration in undisputed areas.”

Marcos Jr. previously said his country would pursue oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea even without an agreement with China, after exploration talks. were officially terminated in June 2022 due to constitutional challenges and sovereignty issues. China claims nearly all of the 1.3 million square miles of the South China Sea as its own, though other territories, including the Philippines, have competing — and sometimes overlapping — claims to some. areas.

The South China Sea has long been a source of tension between Manila and Beijing, and relations were further strained in December when the Philippine Ministry of National Defense expressed “great concern” about the presence of Chinese ships in the sea. contested waterway.

The Philippines has repeatedly accused Chinese vessels of harassing Filipino fishermen in the region, and in a statement on Wednesday, Marcos Jr. said he raised the issue with Xi when they met in Beijing.

In the statement, Marcos Jr. said Xi promised to “find a solution” that would allow Filipino fishermen to operate in the Southeast Asian country’s natural fishing grounds.

“We also discussed what we can do to move forward, to avoid possible mistakes, misunderstandings that could trigger a bigger problem than what we already have,” he added.

To this end, the countries have announced their intention to set up a direct line of communication between their maritime departments.

In the statement from the Philippines, Marcos Jr. said Xi pledged to provide assistance to the Philippines, including in agriculture, infrastructure and maritime security, with the two sides signing a total of 14 agreements bilateral.

Xi also pledged broad cooperation opportunities with the Philippines, including supporting Chinese investment in the Philippines and helping its neighbor develop agricultural technology, basic education, meteorology and space, and science. vaccine research, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

The Philippines has long balanced America’s strategic interest in the Pacific with China’s geopolitical and economic rise.

While the Philippines is a longtime defense ally of the United States, former leader Rodrigo Duterte has sought closer relations with China during his six years in power, putting aside its territorial dispute in exchange for Chinese investments.

Marcos Jr.’s trip to Beijing comes after US Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Philippines in November, where she reaffirmed Washington’s “unwavering” commitment to her ally.

During this visit, Harris and Marcos Jr. discussed 21 new US-funded projects, including other defense sites around the Philippines.

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