Philippines, New Zealand eye forces deal, share concern over South China Sea

April 19, 2024 - 9:47 AM
Philippines' President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. looks on as he meets with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines, March 19, 2024. (Reuters/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/File Photo)

 Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon agreed on Thursday to deepen defense cooperation and expressed serious concern over the South China Sea, where the Philippines and China have had maritime run-ins.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion in annual ship commerce. The Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei have competing claims over some parts of the South China Sea.

Marcos and Luxon also “recognised the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait”, according to a joint statement.

The Philippines and New Zealand will elevate their relations to a “comprehensive partnership” in 2026, Luxon told a joint press conference. The countries also committed to concluding a Status of Visiting Forces Agreement, allowing joint military exercises and humanitarian missions.

— Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema, Editing by Alexandra Hudson