MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine defense chief told his Chinese counterpart on Friday that Manila will adhere “without any possibility of compromise” to a 2016 international arbitration ruling that invalidated most of Beijing’s rival claims in the South China Sea, according to a Philippine statement about the meeting. But the statement was later withdrawn and the contentious comment removed.
Chinese Gen. Wei Fenghe is in Manila for talks with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and President Rodrigo Duterte. His visit follows a series of protests by the Philippines over China’s increasingly aggressive actions in the busy waterway.
The territorial disputes between the countries remain unresolved, although their ties have improved greatly under Duterte, who has sought investment, infrastructure funding and military assistance from China.
After the defense chiefs met, the Philippine defense department issued an initial statement saying Lorenzana had reaffirmed Philippine adherence “without any possibility of compromise” to the arbitration ruling that invalidated China’s territorial claims in the sea on historical grounds.