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Kerry meets Duterte, urges PHL-China dialogue

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(Photo from CNN Philippines)


MANILA ― United States Secretary of State John Kerry has visited the Philippines again and this time met President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacanang.


Kerry is the first American Cabinet official to meet with Duterte since the latter's inauguration on June 30. 

He  discussed the proposed resumption of talks between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea, following an international court ruling against Beijing over the dispute earlier this month.


"I encourage President Duterte to engage in dialogue, in negotiations," Kerry told reporters in Laos prior to landing in Manila.


Kerry met Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay before heading to Malacañang to call on Duterte. Afterwards, Duterte will meet with the National Security Council at the Palace.


Kerry added a stop in the Philippines after spending the past two days in meetings in Laos for a series of regional meetings, including the ASEAN Regional Forum, the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers Meeting, the ASEAN-U.S. Ministerial Meeting, and the Lower Mekong Initiative Ministerial Meeting.


China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi had asked Kerry to lend his support for bilateral talks to restart between Manila and Beijing in a meeting between the two in the Laos capital of Vientiane on Monday.


"The foreign minister said the time has come to move away from public tensions and turn the page," Kerry told a news conference. "And we agree with that... no claimant should be acting in a way that is provocative, no claimant should take steps that wind up raising tensions."


China did not participate in and has refused to accept the July 12 ruling by the U.N.-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration, in which U.S. ally Manila won an emphatic legal victory.


China's dismissal of the court ruling as illegitimate presented a challenge, Kerry said. The international community, including the United States, sees the ruling as legally binding and a matter of law, he added.


"So we still have a task ahead of us, a challenge, which is to try to work going forward to make sure that we are resolving the issues through diplomacy and the rule of law," he said.


China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of trade moves annually. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have rival claims.


China has repeatedly blamed the United States for stoking tensions in the region through its military patrols, and of taking sides in the dispute, accusations Washington denies.


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