Going Softly

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Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday ordered the military to de-escalate tensions in the South China Sea while maintaining the nation’s maritime rights, a directive that comes amid ongoing disputes and recent confrontations between Philippine and Chinese forces, Bloomberg reported.

The president’s remarks followed a bilateral meeting between senior Philippine and Chinese diplomats Tuesday, discussions aimed at reducing hostilities in the contested waters – but without compromising their respective claims.

Prior to this week’s meeting, the two countries had a serious maritime clash on June 17, where a Filipino sailor lost a finger, and Chinese forces caused significant damage to Philippine boats and equipment.

Despite the call for de-escalation, Philippine Armed Forces chief Romeo Brawner emphasized that missions in the contested waters will proceed unchanged, including the potential involvement of allied nations.

Brawner also demanded compensation of $1 million from Beijing for the damages incurred during the incident, which involved the Chinese Coast Guard using weapons against Philippine boats, Radio Free Asia wrote.

He also insisted that China should cover the medical costs for the injured sailor and return firearms seized by China, while accusing Beijing of committing illegal acts and spreading misinformation within the Philippines.

China has defended its actions as legitimate law enforcement, claiming that the Philippine side initiated the provocation with an illegal resupply mission.

June’s incident marks the third such violent encounter this year involving Philippine personnel in the South China Sea.

China claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, but an international tribunal ruled in 2016 that Beijing’s territorial claims and insistence on holding “historic rights” to the waters were inconsistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Beijing has never recognized the verdict.

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