After Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping wrapped up their talks, the two leaders oversaw the signing of 13 documents. The documents covered cooperation in economic, cultural, tourism, trade, anti-narcotics and maritime affairs, including the setting up of a joint committee between their coast guards. Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin also said the two sides are restoring diplomatic and ‘defense security’ discussions, without elaborating.
Officials signed a memorandum of understanding on a number of infrastructure projects for which China would provide financing. No details were provided. A senior Chinese diplomat says his country and the Philippines have agreed to resume a bilateral dialogue on their dispute over the South China Sea, in what appears to be a diplomatic victory for Beijing several months after being handed a defeat by an international tribunal.
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Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told reporters: “Both sides agreed that the South China Sea issue is not the sum total of the bilateral relationship.” He adds that the leaders only touched on the topic briefly during their talks.
Liu said the two sides agreed to return to the approach used five years ago of seeking a settlement through bilateral dialogue. Such an approach had been suspended after China seized control of the Scarborough Shoal and the Philippines launched the tribunal arbitration process.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte hailed a warming of relations with China as “springtime” as he thanked Chinese leader Xi Jinping for his country’s hospitality and said relations between the countries go back centuries. Duterte said, “China has been a friend of the Philippines and the roots of our bonds are very deep and not easily severed.”
“Even as we arrive in Beijing, close to winter, this is a springtime of our relationship.”
Xi and Duterte’s talks began after the Southeast Asian leader was greeted by Xi with full military honors at the Great Hall of the People, the seat of the ceremonial legislature in the heart of Beijing. Duterte has walked a tightrope in trying to mend damaged relations with China while defending his country’s claims in the disputed South China Sea.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, in meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, remarked that this was the first meeting between the two leaders since ties began improving following Duterte’s election. Xi said, “This truly has milestone significance for China-Philippine relations.”
In a reference to recent territorial tensions in the South China Sea, Xi said that “although we have weathered storms, the basis of our friendship and our desire for cooperation has not changed.” Xi also extended his sympathies to Duterte over the destruction caused by Typhoon Haima, which has killed at least four people in the northern Philippines.
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