MANILA — China has reiterated its hope on having a peaceful solution to the territorial disputes in the strategic South China Sea (SCS)/West Philippine Sea (WPS), as China and the Philippines continue to strengthen bilateral relations.
“We have to stick to the principle of peaceful solution because it is not in China’s interest, it is not in the Philippine interest to settle this issue by other means. So we have to put the differences in the SCS in a proper context,” Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua told reporters during a reception commemorating the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China.
Zhao underscored the need to handle the territorial dispute in a peaceful manner in order for the two countries to maximize the benefits of their bilateral relations.
The ambassador pointed out that China and the Philippines had already established a bilateral channel between the two ministries of foreign affairs (MFA) to discuss SCS-related issues.
“That channel has already been opened and we would hope there will be friendly and candid exchange of views through that bilateral channel with regard issues on SCS,” he said.
Apart from such bilateral channel, China and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) nations, which include the Philippines, tested an MFA hotline to tackle emergencies in the SCS and it was successful.
China and ASEAN also applied the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) to disputed waters.
ASEAN members and China already completed the framework on the code of conduct for managing the dispute in SCS last May in Guiyang, Guizhou Province in Southwest China.
They expected to submit the completed COC framework to the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN and China during their meeting in Manila in August for their consideration.
Aside from the Philippines and China, other countries that have made competing claims over parts or all of the SCS/WPS include Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.