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Spratlys > News > English News > March 2005

Category: @News  @China

RP, China agree to settle dispute in South China Sea
INQ7 Interactive, Inc., Philippines - Mar 1, 2005 - Posted 11:45am (Mla time) Mar 02, 2005
Agence France-Presse

BEIJING, China -- The Philippines said Wednesday that a dispute with China over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea has been settled and the two sides will work together to exploit the region's oil deposits.

"Disputes and conflicts are all over now," visiting Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo was quoted as saying by the Xinhua news agency. "The South China Sea, instead of a regional flash point, has been transformed into an area of cooperation, peace and development."

China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam claim in whole or in part the oil-rich Spratly chain of islands and atolls in the South China Sea.

All the claimants, except Brunei, have troops stationed in the area and there have been deadly clashes in the past.

The most serious incident occurred in 1988 when Chinese and Vietnamese naval forces clashed at Johnson Reef, resulting in the deaths of 78 Vietnamese navy personnel.

Last year China and the Philippines agreed to carry out a joint study of the mineral reserves in the area, sparking concern from the other claimants.

Vietnam warned that the joint study could violate a 2002 code of conduct signed by the claimants to refrain from actions that could disturb the volatile peace in the islands.

But Romulo indicated that matters had been settled, saying that his comment on disputes and conflicts "refers not only to China and the Philippines, but also others which claim the South China Sea territory."

He said Sino-Filipino ties were at an all-time high and stressed the priority of economic development in the region.

"If there are conflicts, whether in the South China Sea, the Korean peninsula or Taiwan Strait, it is important for the countries in the region to bind together to have meaningful dialogue in the diplomacy," he was quoted as saying.

"If we can preserve peace in the region, therefore we can get on with economic development," he said.