Philippines, Vietnam to Cooperate in Responding to South China Sea Incidents

Posted October 26th, 2011 at 4:35 pm (UTC-5)
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The Philippine and Vietnamese presidents have agreed to boost cooperation between their naval forces in responding to incidents in the South China Sea, where both nations have accused Chinese vessels of acting aggressively in recent months.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino and his visiting Vietnamese counterpart Truong Tan Sang attended the signing of the maritime agreements after talks in Manila Wednesday. The deals call for information sharing between the Philippine and Vietnamese navies and the creation of a hotline between their coast guards.

Under the agreements, Philippine and Vietnamese authorities will cooperate in responding to natural disasters, preventing smuggling and piracy, and protecting marine resources in the South China Sea. Manila refers to that body of water as the West Philippine Sea, while Hanoi calls it the East Sea.

The Philippine and Vietnamese presidents also discussed a 2002 agreement in which the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China made non-binding promises to peacefully resolve maritime disputes. The two leaders said that agreement should be “fully implemented.”

Both nations accuse Chinese vessels of intruding into their territorial waters around the disputed Spratly Islands and disrupting their oil exploration activities this year. China has denied the accusations and reiterated its claim to all of the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands. Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also claim the archipelago.

Vietnamese President Sang said he supports Manila's call for all regional nations to agree to a legally binding code of conduct in the South China Sea, a proposal known as a “zone of peace.” He said Hanoi believes it is important to maintain peace, stability and freedom of navigation in the area.

Philippine President Aquino said he and Mr. Sang agreed that a resolution to the maritime disputes should follow a “rules-based approach” that adheres to international law.