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Beijing and Manila end talks as ‘war’ threat recalled

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China and the Philippines held their first bilateral talks over the South China Sea on Friday but announced little progress aside from an agreement to meet again before the end of the year, reported South China Morning Post (Hong Kong).

The talks came as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said in Manila his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping had warned him on Monday there would be war if Manila tried to enforce an arbitration ruling and drill for oil in a disputed part of the sea.

Jose Santiago Sta. Romana, the Philippine ambassador to China, met deputy foreign minister Liu Zhenmin for about three hours at a luxury hotel in Guiyang in Guizhou province. Sta. Romana told reporters afterwards the two sides had touched on sensitive issues.

“This is the purpose of this bilateral consultation mechanism, to discuss issues that are contentious, while we pursue non-contentious issues in other fields,” the journalist-turned-ambassador said.
“But we didn’t dwell, we didn’t impose on the Chinese. We just wanted to ... present the Philippine position,” he said.
Both sides agreed to meet again before the end of the year in the Philippines, the ambassador said.

In a statement released after the meeting, the Chinese delegation said that both sides exchanged views on the importance of addressing concerns and handling incidents and disputes in the South China Sea in an appropriate manner.

The meeting came only days after a visit by Duterte to Beijing, where the outspoken president attended a summit hosted by Xi on China’s belt and road plan.
During the visit, China and the Philippines agreed to a US$72 million grant, instead of loans, for social and economic planning.
Duterte said on Friday he discussed the South China Sea issue with Xi when the two met and got a firm, but friendly warning.

“We intend to drill oil there, if it’s yours, well, that’s your view, but my view is, I can drill the oil, if there is some inside the bowels of the earth because it is ours,” Duterte said in a speech, recalling his conversation with Xi.
“His response to me, ‘we’re friends, we don’t want to quarrel with you, we want to maintain the presence of warm relationship, but if you force the issue, we’ll go to war.”

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