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China agrees to practice ‘self-restraint’ in South China Sea

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The Philippines and China have agreed to exercise “self-restraint” on activities that will complicate and escalate tensions in region.

On Tuesday, the two claimant states concluded the second meeting of the Philippines-China Bilateral Consultative Mechanism on South China Sea (BCM) in Manila.

“Both sides agreed to continue discussions on confidence-building measures to increase mutual trust and confidence and to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities in the South China Sea that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability,” the joint statement issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

Taking off from the discussions during the inaugural meeting of the BCM on May 19, 2017 in Guiyang, China, the DFA said there had been a “frank, cordial exchange of views” on issues related to the sea lane.

With the objective of maintaining and promoting peace and stability in the region, the DFA said both sides discussed ways to manage and prevent incidents at sea and promote dialogue and cooperation on maritime issues, and enhance mutual trust and confidence.

“Both sides had a positive, fruitful and productive meeting,” the DFA said.

The meeting was led by DFA Undersecretary for Policy Enrique Manalo for the Philippines, and Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou for China.

During the discussion, the two representatives highlighted the importance of the meeting as a consultation mechanism that would continue to contribute to Philippines and China’s growing bilateral relations.

Citing a joint statement released in November 2017, both sides said “contentious maritime issues are not the sum total of the Philippines-China bilateral relationship.”

The two underscored the need to address territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, “without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned.”

This, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations and the 1982 UNCLOS.

Meanwhile, the two also emphasized importance of freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea, freedom of international commerce, and other peaceful uses of the sea.

According to the DFA, the third meeting of the BCM will be held in China in the second half of 2018 at a mutually convenient date. (PNA)