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South China Sea ‘better left untouched:’ Duterte, Xi agree on cooperation to resolve maritime row

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President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to cooperate with Chinese President Xi Jinping in finding a solution to the maritime dispute over the South China Sea.

In his speech before an ASEAN event for businessmen Sunday (November 12), Duterte said he and Xi reached the agreement during their bilateral meeting in Vietnam.

“And we agreed and he agrees, and he said, ‘If you are President Duterte and you want to preserve the lives of the Filipinos, then as President of China, I want to save lives. I do not waste the lives of my countrymen for a useless war that cannot be won by anybody,'” Duterte quoted Xi as saying.

“He made it clear to us that the only way to go is cooperation. And so I would say that we should open our doors to everybody. Ideological conflicts are no longer in the vogue, it’s a passé,” the President added.

In a press conference earlier in the day, Duterte said he brought up China’s militarization of the disputed waters in his bilateral talks with Xi because he is the current chair of ASEAN.

Duterte said no country can afford to go to war.

“There’s a — the other hotheads who would like us to confront China and the rest of the world for so many issues. The South China Sea is better left untouched,” he said.