Philippines FM Heads to China to Discuss Territorial Spat

Posted July 7th, 2011 at 4:00 am (UTC-5)
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Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario says he will discuss a dispute over waters around the Spratly Islands during high-level meetings in Beijing beginning Thursday.

In a statement issued before his departure for China, del Rosario said he expects to discuss the dispute with Vice President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. But, he said, the disagreement is not “the sum total” of his country's relationship with China.

The Philippines has accused China of several incursions into South China Sea waters that Manila claims as part of its exclusive economic zone. His government has sought assurances from Washington of protection under a longstanding mutual defense treaty and inquired about leasing ships and weapons.

China claims sovereignty over virtually the entire South China Sea, irritating several countries that border the sea. It claims it actions are legal and appropriate.

China-Philippines relations suffered a new setback this week when Manila banned a Chinese diplomat from meetings, saying he had exhibited rude behavior during talks.

Foreign ministry officials said First Secretary Li Yongsheng has been barred from entering ministry offices because he raised his voice at a Filipino official during a discussion on the disputed territory.

A ministry spokesman said the Chinese Embassy official's conduct was “unbecoming of a diplomat.”