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

New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, and Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos Jr walk inside Malacanang presidential palace in Manila on April 18, 2024. - AP

MANILA: Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr and New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon agreed on Thursday (April 18) to deepen defence 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 US$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. - Reuters

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