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China welcomes Duterte's remarks on navigation freedom

By An Baijie and Mo Jingxi | | Updated: 2017-03-14 19:35

China welcomes Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's remarks to allow Chinese research vessels into waters close to the Philippines where Chinese survey ships were spotted last year, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Tuesday ahead of a senior official's trip to Manila.

China fully respects the Philippines' continental shelf rights over Benham Rise, and such rights have never been challenged by China, spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news conference.

She added that according to the basic norms of international laws, continental shelves and exclusive economic zones do not belong to territory. A coastal state’s rights over the continental shelf should not affect other countries' rights of navigation freedom as supported by international laws, Hua said.

"As President Duterte mentioned, China and the Philippines have already communicated over the relevant issues, exchanged views in a friendly manner, cleared the facts and handled the issue properly," she said.

Duterte told reporters on Monday that he had agreed to allow Chinese research ships sailing in Benham Rise waters. "Let us not fight about ownership or sovereignty at this time because things are going great for my country," Duterte said.

"Some people are just blowing it up. We previously agreed. It was a research ship. We were advised of it way ahead," he said.

The Philippine president's remarks are a rectification to the hawkish comments of the country's defense secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, who said last week that he had "ordered the Navy that if they see this service ship this year, to start to accost them and drive them away."

On March 10, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that in 2012, the UN Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf (CLCS) approved the Philippines' application for a 200-sea-mile outer continental shelf limit in Benham Rise.

Accordingly, the Philippines may exploit natural resources there, but the Philippines cannot regard it as its territory, Geng said.

Vice-Premier Wang Yang will visit Philippines from Thursday to Sunday, during which he will meet with Duterte, attend the open ceremony of China-ASEAN tourism year, and deliver a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of China-Philippine economic and trade forum, said Hua.


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