China, PH to stay committed to resolving sea row in accordance with int'l law, UNCLOS

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FILE PHOTO. President Rodrigo Duterte with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 21) — The leaders of the Philippines and China discussed again the territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

In a joint statement delivered Wednesday, President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping said they will continue to address the ongoing dispute, but that these issues "are not the sum total of China-Philippines bilateral relations."

The leaders added that the dispute will be settled through "peaceful means," and will involve talks with other sovereign states that are directly concerned with the issue.

"Both sides stay committed to addressing disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations and the 1982 UNCLOS," the statement read.

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines, regarding its territorial claims in the South China Sea based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

However, China has refused to acknowledge the ruling of the international court, while Duterte has seemingly taken a back seat on the matter despite his strong stance on defending territorial waters before the 2016 elections.

In a chance interview with reporters at the recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-China Summit, Duterte said China currently is in possession of the South China Sea.

Duterte also said the ASEAN, with China, should come up with a Code of Conduct (COC) on the South China Sea soon, which defines what can and cannot be done in disputed waters.

READ: Duterte to China: Tell us the 'kind of behavior' to take in South China Sea

Aside from the Philippines and China, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also have territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Despite Taiwan's claim for independence, China continues to assert that it is a part of its territory. In the joint statement, the Philippines reaffirmed its stance on the matter, siding with China.

"The two Leaders agree to maintain close high-level communication through bilateral visits, phone calls, exchange of letters, and side meetings in multilateral fora, so as to strengthen the planning of bilateral relations, institute timely communication on major regional and international issues, and promote the sharing of experience in state governance. The Philippines reaffirmed its observance of the One-China principle," the statement read.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to return to China Wednesday evening.