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Duterte expected to visit China again

By WANG QINGYUN | China Daily | Updated: 2017-01-20 07:48

Beijing and Manila agree to manage maritime issue through consultation

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to visit China again and attend an international summit, after his state visit in October significantly improved China-Philippine ties.

According to an online statement by the Foreign Ministry, the Philippine president told visiting Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin in Manila on Tuesday that he will attend the International Cooperation Summit Forum on the Belt and Road Initiative in Beijing in May, saying he is looking forward to meeting President Xi Jinping again.

Zhou Fangyin, a professor studying China's foreign policy at the Guangdong Institute for International Strategies, said Duterte's words show that the Philippines wants to "rank in the front row" among countries in terms of its economic and trade cooperation with China.

They also show that the Philippines has a "very positive attitude" toward the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road under Duterte's administration, and wants more pragmatic benefits from participating in the initiative.

The economic foundation for bilateral ties is likely to be strengthened after Duterte attends the forum, Zhou predicted.

During consultations Liu co-hosted with his Philippine counterpart, Enrique Manalo, in Manila on Wednesday, China and the Philippines agreed that the South China Sea situation "is just a very small issue" compared with the friendly bilateral ties that keep strengthening. The two sides also agreed to set up a bilateral consultation mechanism over the South China Sea issue led by their foreign ministries.

Both sides believe they should properly handle disputes and promote pragmatic maritime cooperation before the issue is finally resolved, and they will work with other ASEAN countries to actively push forward negotiations over the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

Since being elected president, Duterte has shown his intentions to play down and resolve maritime disputes with China through negotiations, and paid a state visit to China in October, which significantly eased tensions.

His visit also saw the countries sign a wide range of cooperation deals, including for transportation infrastructure, agriculture, production capacity and investment.

Zhou said that neither China nor the Philippines likes to see the South China Sea issue blocking bilateral cooperation, and Duterte's position is clear: "He doesn't want outside forces to play up maritime disputes."


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