Aquino to raise sea dispute at Asia-Europe meet

Agence France-Presse

DISPUTE. Aquino (R) met Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying (L) at Malacañang Palace on October 19 / Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III said Sunday, November 4 that the Philippines would raise overlapping claims to the South China Sea during a summit of Asian and European leaders in Laos this week.

Aquino said he expects to hold bilateral meetings with the leaders of the European Union, Poland, Switzerland, Norway and Italy during the two-day Asia-Europe Meeting beginning in Laos on Monday.

“At a time when parts of Asia and Europe are facing crisis and uncertainty, it is important for leaders of the two regions to discuss issues they are burdened with,” he said in his departure speech.

Among other issues, he said, the leaders were expected to talk about increasing economic cooperation and seek ways to limit the impact of fiscal crises hobbling some European nations.

Aquino said the Philippines meanwhile would seek “suggestions on ways to craft a just and peaceful agreement on the West Philippine Sea”. Manila refers to the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippines has since April been engaged in a stand-off with China over a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.

China claims the shoal as well as nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coasts of neighbouring countries. The Philippines says the shoal is well within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

Aside from China and the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have claims to parts of the sea. The Philippines and Vietnam have accused China of becoming increasingly  aggressive in staking out its claims.

Aquino has insisted in the past that solving the dispute needed a multilateral approach, but China has insisted on solving the problem bilaterally with individual countries involved. – Agence France-Presse

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