By Patricia Lourdes Viray
MANILA, Philippines — Washington will not put pressure on the Philippines to try to push back against China in connection with the South China Sea dispute, the US Department of State said.
Patrick Murphy, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, stressed that State Secretary Rex Tillerson wants cooperation and collaboration in addressing the North Korea and South China Sea issues.
President Rodrigo Duterte has refused to use the ruling of an international arbitral tribunal on the South China Sea in pressuring China.
In a telephonic press conference last week, Murphy said that the US took note of the arbitration ruling issued last year and consistently notes that it is a binding ruling between the Philippines and China.
"But there is a much bigger story here, and that is bringing about a solution to the disputes that applies to all of the claimants and then the rest of the international community that has the rights and the needs to access the South China Sea area," Murphy told members of the press.
Murphy noted that the South China Sea dispute was one of the main issues discussed during the meeting between Tillerson and his Southeast Asian counterparts last week.
The US official noted that Washington and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) share common objectives in wanting the air and maritime transit through the South China Sea to be free and open in accordance with international law.
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