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July 24, 2017

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Philippines discusses China row with Myanmar

MANILA -- The Philippines sought Myanmar's support in its maritime territorial dispute with China as the foreign ministers of the two Southeast Asian countries met on Friday.

Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario said he brought up the two-month long standoff in the South China Sea in his talks with visiting Myanmar Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin in Manila.

"We discussed the West Philippine Sea issue, the peaceful resolution of the dispute in accordance with international law," del Rosario said, using the Philippine term for the South China Sea.

Del Rosario said he brought up the "code of conduct" that some Southeast Asian nations had been promoting to prevent conflict in the sea where several of them have conflicting territorial claims.

"Foreign Minister Lwin said they are looking at it (the proposed code) and we hope that they will consider it," he added.

The discussion came as Philippine and Chinese ships maintained their standoff over the Scarborough Shoal, an outcropping in the South China Sea which they both claim.

The dispute began after Chinese government vessels blocked Philippine ships from arresting Chinese fishermen at the shoal in April.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coasts of neighboring countries while the Philippines says the shoal is well within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

China and Myanmar are, however, close political and economic allies and Rangon backs Beijing's "one China policy" under which Taiwan is considered "an unalienable part of the Chinese territory."

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