MOSCOW (Sputnik) — China hopes for a fresh start in relations with the Philippines, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Thursday, as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is visiting the country.
“We have noticed President Duterte’s sincere trust. China hopes to manage related issues properly, to open a new page for both. We will go back to the track of bilateral talks to resolve the South China Sea disputes, and this is what should be done through friendship and in a flexible manner. In terms of who our friends are and how should we solve problems, we have our own judgement,” Hua said, as quoted by CCTV. She said Beijing was also willing to discuss with the Philippines cooperation in drug prohibition efforts and combating drug-related crimes. Duterte is visiting China on October 18-21 at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Thursday that he hoped Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s “milestone” visit to China could help “fully improve” ties between the two countries, which have suffered over disputes in the South China Sea.
Duterte arrived in Beijing on Tuesday with at least 200 top business people to pave the way for what he calls a new commercial alliance, amid deteriorating relations with longtime ally the United States.
The effort to engage China, months after a ruling in the Hague over South China Sea disputes in favor of the Philippines, marks a reversal in Philippine foreign policy since Duterte took office on June 30.
Xi told Duterte during a meeting at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People that China and the Philippines were brothers and that the two sides could “appropriately handle disputes”, though he did not specifically mention the South China Sea row.
“I hope we can follow the wishes of the people and use this visit as an opportunity to push China-Philippines relations back on a friendly footing and fully improve things,” he said.
Duterte pressed his message that he wished to strengthen cooperation with China, calling his visit “very significant” and an indication of a “springtime” in relations.
“Stretching back centuries, China has been a friend of the Philippines and the roots of our bonds are deep and not easily severed,” Duterte told Xi.
“Even as we arrived in Beijing close to winter, this is the springtime of our relationship.”
Duterte’s congenial tone in Beijing is in contrast to the language he has used with long-time ally Washington, having called U.S. President Barack Obama a “son of a bitch”, and railed against U.S. criticism of his war on drugs, which has led to the deaths of 2,300 people.
His hardline drug war tactics have raised concerns in Western capitals about extrajudicial killings, but China has expressed support for the campaign.