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China, Philippines agree to calm territorial row
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) July 8, 2011

China and the Philippines agreed Friday not to allow rising tensions over conflicting claims in the South China Seas to hamper bilateral relations, the two governments said in a joint statement.

The statement was released by the Philippines following talks in Beijing between Chinese Foreign Ministry Yang Jiechi and his Philippine counterpart Albert del Rosario.

"Both Ministers exchanged views on the maritime disputes and agreed not to let the maritime disputes affect the broader picture of friendship and cooperation between the two countries," the statement said.

The two sides also agreed to abide by a 2002 code of conduct over their claims in the South China Seas, signed by the disputing nations that also include Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Del Rosario's trip comes amid rising bilateral strains, with the Philippines accusing China of recently making aggressive moves in the region called the "West Philippine Sea" by Manila, particularly in the strategic and potentially resource-rich area of the Spratly islands.

The Philippines has previously accused Chinese forces of opening fire on Filipino fishermen, shadowing an oil exploration vessel employed by a Philippine firm and putting up structures in Philippine-claimed areas.

In the latest incident, it said an unidentified foreign plane harassed a group of Filipino fishermen in the South China Sea last month with a flyover that the Philippine navy said appeared to be a warning.

Del Rosario's visit comes as the navies of the Philippines and the United States engage in 11 days of military exercises close to the South China Seas, war games that have been seen as aimed at the recent Chinese provocations.

Later Friday, Del Rosario met with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who is widely expected to become China's top leader in 2013 when current President Hu Jintao steps down.

During talks, both sides also agreed to to make the upcoming visit to China by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III "a full success," the statement said. No dates for the visit have been announced.

"Both Ministers are committed to focus on advancing practical cooperation for the benefit of both countries and people," the statement said.

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