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Philippines, Vietnam Leaders Meet, Take a Swipe at China

  • Simone Orendain

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, right, shakes hands with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung after their joint press statement at the Malacanang Presidential Palace in Manila, Philippines, May 21, 2014.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, right, shakes hands with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung after their joint press statement at the Malacanang Presidential Palace in Manila, Philippines, May 21, 2014.

Vietnam’s prime minister held talks with the Philippines president on Wednesday in Manila. They discussed strengthening defense ties and maritime cooperation. But the prime minister drew attention over his tough words for China, saying both Manila and Hanoi are determined to oppose what he says are Beijing’s territorial violations in the South China Sea.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung arrived in Manila following high tension with Beijing over a Chinese oil rig that Vietnam says is in its territorial waters.

The Philippines has also complained of run-ins with China’s government surveillance vessels at various disputed outcroppings. Last month the Philippines protested what it says is a Chinese reclamation project at a reef it claims in the Spratly Islands.

Speaking through an interpreter at the Philippines’ presidential palace, Dung said Manila and Hanoi share the same view of the situation.

“The two sides are determined to oppose China’s violations and called on countries and the international community to continue strongly condemning China and demanding China to immediately end its above said violations and fully, strictly, observe international law,” he said.

During meetings Wednesday the leaders said they are interested in advancing cooperation in defense matters and plan to consult each other more actively when it comes to regional security.

Vietnamese and Chinese ships exchanged water-cannon fire earlier this month after the oil rig started its drilling project. The incident led to anti-China protests in Vietnam and numerous Chinese companies were vandalized. Vietnam officials said over the weekend they would clamp down on the protests.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia have claims in the South China Sea. China and Taiwan claim practically the entire sea, which is a well-used trade route, has abundant sea life and is believed to have major oil and gas reserves.

The Philippines in March submitted about 4,000 pages of supporting materials for its international arbitration case over what it calls China’s “excessive claims” in the sea. China rejects the case and has not responded.

Among the claimants, the Philippines and Vietnam have been the most outspoken against China’s stepped up assertion of its claims in the sea.

President Aquino said the two countries were looking into the “prerequisite” requirements toward forming a strategic partnership.

“I believe that continued cooperation with Vietnam as well as other members of ASEAN in defense and security will only contribute to promoting regional stability. It is not an overstatement when I say that I look forward to increased collaboration between our respective defense agencies,” he said.

Prime Minister Dung is scheduled to speak at the World Economic Forum on East Asia being hosted by the Philippines over the next two days. China did not send a delegation to the event.

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