CHINA and the Philippines appear to have struck a friendly compromise on the thorny South China Sea dispute, according to a senior Chinese diplomat Thursday.
The Philippine Star, citing the unnamed diplomat, said after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping held their maiden meeting in Beijing, it was agreed that they would resume their dialogue on the matter.
The daily added that Chinese vice foreign minister Liu Zhenmin confirmed to reporters later that both countries agreed that these territorial disputes were not the sum total of their relations and that they would restore “diplomatic and defence consultations”.
He reportedly added that both sides agreed to return to the approach of using dialogues to settle the matter.
No immediate details on this so-called agreement are available at this point but the decision is seen as a major diplomatic victory for Beijing, months after it lost the ruling in The Hague.
In the July 12 ruling, the international arbitration court said China had no historical title over the South China Sea and that it had breached the Philippines’ sovereign rights. China has said that it rejects the ruling, which ramps up pressure on the Asian powerhouse to scale back its military expansion in the area, and that it would continue to resolve the dispute with its neighbours.
Prior to his meeting with Xi, Duterte was reported by local media as saying that there would be no bargaining with China over the South China Sea issue.
He said: “We will stick to our claim. We do not bargain anything there. We continue to insist that that’s ours and that the international tribunal decision will be taken up. But there will be no hard impositions.”
The intrepid Filipino leader is, however, actively working towards improving bilateral ties with China and wants to revamp his country’s foreign policy, which has long been pro-Washington.
In a controversial statement after a round of meetings in Beijing on Wednesday, Duterte even bid the United States “goodbye”.
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In his opening remarks during his meeting with Xi Thursday, 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 arrived in Beijing close to winter, this is a springtime of our relationship,” he added, according to ABS-CBN news.
Duterte’s controversial overtures to China has earned him much criticism at home but the firebrand leader has indicated his belief that fostering a closer relationship with Beijing would bring better benefits to the Philippines than ties with the U.S. ever did.
According to The Philippine Star, the tough-talking leader known for his colourful vocabulary and devil-may-care attitude, even said Wednesday ahead of his meeting with Xi that he would wait for China to raise the South China Sea issue out of “courtesy” to his host.
“As a matter of courtesy and in the Oriental way, you always wait,” he was quoted as telling the Filipino business community in Beijing.