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Philippines President Says Diplomatic Efforts With China Heading ‘In Poor Direction’

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Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said a “paradigm shift” was needed in how his country approaches the South China Sea issue, as diplomatic efforts with Beijing were headed “in a poor direction”.

Marcos, in an interview with Mainichi Shimbun on Dec. 16, parts of which were shared with Philippine media on Monday, said China was disregarding traditional diplomatic efforts, according to a presidential palace release.

“To this point, we have resorted to the traditional methods of diplomacy … but we have been doing this for many years now, with very little progress,” said Marcos, who was in Japan for Tokyo’s commemorative summit with the Association of Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN).

“It’s time that the countries that feel that they have an involvement in this situation, we have to come up with a paradigm shift,” Marcos said, while reiterating the Philippines wants to avoid violent conflict.

He added his government will continue talking to its partners and come up with a joint position stating their responsibilities as far as the West Philippines Sea is concerned.

The Philippines refers to the part of South China Sea within its exclusive economic zone as the West Philippines Sea.

Last week, Manila and Beijing traded accusations over a ship collision near a disputed shoal in the South China Sea as tensions over claims in the vital waterway escalate.

China’s foreign ministry said that the recent incidents were “entirely caused” by the Philippines but that maritime disputes do not depict the “whole story” of both nation’s relations.

Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a regular news briefing on Tuesday that China is willing to properly manage differences through dialogue and consultation.

“We will not close the door to dialogue and contact with the Philippines,” he said when asked about Marcos’ comments.

In addition to the Philippines, ASEAN members Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims with China in parts of the South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion of annual ship-borne commerce.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 said China’s claims had no legal basis, a ruling the United States supports but Beijing rejects.

There was no immediate comment from the Chinese Embassy in Manila.

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