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Wednesday July 17, 2024

Philippines says it agrees with China to ‘de-escalate’ South China Sea tensions

Chinese coast guard personnel wielding knives, sticks and an axe surrounded and boarded three Philippine navy boats on June 17 during a resupply mission to Second Thomas Shoal

By AFP
July 03, 2024
An aerial view shows the BRP Sierra Madre on the contested Second Thomas Shoal, locally known as Ayungin, in the South China Sea on March 9, 2023. — Reuters
An aerial view shows the BRP Sierra Madre on the contested Second Thomas Shoal, locally known as Ayungin, in the South China Sea on March 9, 2023. — Reuters

MANILA: The Philippines and China agreed on Tuesday to “de-escalate tensions” over the South China Sea, Manila said, following a violent clash in the disputed waters last month.

Manila and Beijing have a long history of maritime territorial disputes in the hotly contested waterway but last month´s incident was the most serious in a number of escalating confrontations.

Chinese coast guard personnel wielding knives, sticks and an axe surrounded and boarded three Philippine navy boats on June 17 during a resupply mission to Second Thomas Shoal.

A Filipino soldier lost a finger in the clash, with Manila also accusing the Chinese coast guard of looting guns and damaging three boats as well as navigational and communication equipment. Beijing insisted its coast guard behaved in a “professional and restrained” way and blamed Manila for the clash.

A handful of Filipino troops are stationed on a rusty warship deliberately grounded on Second Thomas Shoal in 1999 to assert Manila´s claims to the area.

Philippine foreign affairs undersecretary Theresa Lazaro and China´s vice foreign minister Chen Xiaodong had “frank and constructive discussions” on Tuesday, the Philippine foreign ministry said in a statement after the talks.

“The two sides discussed their respective positions on Ayungin Shoal and affirmed their commitment to de-escalate tensions without prejudice to their respective positions,” the statement said, using the country´s name for Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands.