MANILA, Philippines — China has a “greater stake” in ensuring peace and stability in the South China Sea than any other nation, its top envoy to Manila said.
In a speech at the celebration 70th founding anniversary of the People’s Republic of China in Makati City on Thursday, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua expressed his country’s commitment to maintain regional peace and stability.
“More than 60 percent of China’s foreign trade and energy supplies pass through the South China Sea, so China has a greater stake in safeguarding the peace and stability of the South China Sea than any other country,” he said.
The South China Sea is a vital economic sea lane in the Asian region, but China’s reclamation activities and militarization in the contested waterway have raised concerns on peace and stability in the region.
But maritime issues between the two countries on South China Sea, Zhao stressed, is “not the sum total of China-Philippine relations.”
“It is our belief that South China Sea issue is not the sum total of China-Philippine relations, nor disputes the sum total of South China Sea issue,” he said.
The two countries have been locked in longstanding maritime dispute due to overlapping claims in the South China Sea.
Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea, including parts of the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
But in July 2016, the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of Manila’s sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea.
READ: PH wins arbitration case over South China Sea
This after the Philippines filed a case before the international tribunal in 2013 challenging Beijing’s expansive claims in the South China Sea.
Amid the maritime row between the two nations, Zhao said China “would like to work together with the Philippines and give full play to existing mechanisms” such as the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea (BCM) and Joint Coast Guard Committee (JCGC) to properly manage our differences.
Aside from the Philippines and China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei also have conflicting claims over the South China Sea.