Manila: China set impossible conditions for Aquino visitBy AP News Sep 02, 2013 5:23PM UTC
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine officials said Monday that President Benigno Aquino III canceled a trip to a Chinese trade fair after Beijing demanded that he first withdraw a legal complaint over disputed territories in the South China Sea.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and two other diplomats relayed conditions for Aquino to attend the annual China-ASEAN Expo, which opens Tuesday in the southern city of Nanning, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez told a news conference.
Hernandez declined to detail the conditions, but said these were “absolutely inimical to our national interest.”
Aquino on Thursday decided to cancel his publicly announced trip to the Nanning trade fair. Hernandez said the Philippines will instead send a delegation headed by its trade secretary.
Two Philippine officials told The Associated Press that China wanted the Philippines to withdraw a U.N. arbitration case over disputed islands in the South China Sea. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
Chinese officials did not comment Monday. The spokesperson’s office at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said last week that Aquino was not specifically invited to Nanning.
The Philippines is this year’s “country of honor” at the trade fair, which takes place in China every year to highlight trade exchanges between Beijing and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The Philippines and China have been embroiled in increasingly antagonistic territorial disputes. Last year, China seized a shoal near the northwestern coast of the Philippines, and this year it demanded that the Philippine navy withdraw from Second Thomas Shoal farther south.
Manila incensed China in January by seeking U.N. arbitration to solve the disputes.
China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and its island groups on historical grounds. The Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan have rejected that, sparking fears the disputes might turn violent.