BEIJING, Sept. 1 (UPI) -- China and the Philippines agreed to find a peaceful resolution to a South China Sea dispute that has raised international concerns.
The issue was discussed by visiting Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and his Chinese host, President Hu Jintao. The two leaders stood firm about their countries' territorial claims in the Spratlys, but decided to resolve the dispute peacefully, the Philippine Star reported Thursday.
The official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported Hu and Aquino agreed to strengthen economic and trade cooperation while minimizing the impact of the sea disputes.
Xinhua quoted Hu as saying China's stance on the South China Sea issue has been consistent and explicit.
"The South China Sea disputes should be resolved peacefully through consultation and negotiation" between the two countries, Hu said.
Hu also was quoted as saying China is ready to work with the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including the Philippines, to develop the waters jointly into "a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation."
The sea dispute has become tense, as China repeatedly asserts its "indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands [Spratly Islands] and the surrounding waters" of the South China Sea, and has asked all other claimant countries to stop drilling there for oil and gas. Those countries include Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan.
The U.S. Senate has passed a resolution deploring the recent use of force by Chinese maritime security vessels against a Vietnamese exploration ship, and calling for a peaceful resolution of the dispute through multilateral efforts.
The Philippine Star quoted Aquino spokesman Edwin Lacierda as saying it was Aquino who raised the Spratlys issue, saying as the issue was a regional problem, it required a regional solution.
"So both sides were very positive in addressing the issue in the South China Sea," the Star quoted Lacierda as saying.
Aquino and Hu also attended the signing of nine agreements on a number of issues regarding economic, cultural and friendly ties.
Xinhua reported the two sides have pledged to double their trade volume to $60 billion in five years. The report said Aquino was accompanied by a 300-strong delegation that included more than 200 business executives.