In a significant diplomatic move, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Chinese President Xi Jinping convened during the APEC Summit in San Francisco, with a focus on de-escalating tensions in the contested South China Sea. The leaders aimed to explore mechanisms to ease tensions, prioritize open sea lanes, and address concerns of Filipino fishermen navigating their exclusive economic zone.
Speaking on the summit’s sidelines, Marcos stressed the importance of ongoing communication between the Philippines and China, characterizing the meeting as a pivotal step in fostering peace. While specific details weren’t disclosed, Marcos acknowledged the need for constructive dialogue amid complex territorial disputes.
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Marcos flagged incidents involving Chinese and Philippine vessels, citing collisions and maritime safety concerns. He emphasized the need to return to a scenario where both Chinese and Filipino fishermen could coexist peacefully. Filipino fishermen have faced obstacles from Chinese ships, hindering their activities.
During the meeting, Marcos and Xi agreed to steer the relationship away from being solely defined by geopolitical tensions. They shared a common sentiment that, despite challenges, cooperation and understanding should be prioritized. Marcos’ approach aligns with his pursuit of warmer ties with the U.S., drawing criticism from Beijing.
Since taking office in 2022, Marcos aimed to enhance ties with the U.S., granting greater military base access. This move has drawn criticism from Beijing, highlighting the delicate balance Marcos seeks in the geopolitical landscape.
Acknowledging tensions in the South China Sea, where China has constructed artificial islands, Marcos expressed optimism about avoiding conflict. He emphasized diplomatic resolutions, noting neither side desires war. China’s territorial claims, despite a 2016 ruling invalidating Beijing’s assertion, remain contentious.
Marcos aims to navigate the situation through diplomatic channels, focusing on dialogue and cooperation while addressing fishermen’s concerns. The meeting underscores ongoing complexities and the Philippines’ efforts to balance relations with global players.
In response to queries, China’s embassy in Manila did not immediately comment, leaving room for continued diplomatic engagement.