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Duterte visit to Chinese warship shows 'growing political mutual trust'

In this Monday, May 1, 2017, photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, right, receives a hat from captain Hu Jie of the Chinese navy's missile destroyer Changchun during the ship's goodwill visit in Davao city in the southern Philippines. Yu Wei/Xinhua via AP

MANILA, Philippines — Beijing welcomed the visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to a Chinese warship docked in Davao City earlier this week.

"The Chinese side welcomes President Duterte's visit to the Chinese naval vessel calling in Davao City. It shows the growing political mutual trust between the two countries," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

Two Chinese warships and a support vessel docked at Sasa Wharf in Davao City on Sunday as part of a goodwill cruise to Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states.

Duterte said that the docking of the three Chinese vessels in the country is part of confidence-building and goodwill.

The president also said he is open to joint military exercises with China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang noted that the bilateral relationship between the Philippines and China saw an overall improvement last year.

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China vowed that it would continue to work with the Philippines in strengthening mutual trust and in handling the South China Sea dispute.

"Practical cooperation has fully unfolded, producing remarkable results and bringing tangible benefits to people of both countries. It fully proves that good neighborliness and friendly cooperation is the right choice in the fundamental interests of the two countries and two peoples," Geng said.

Beijing also committed itself to working with Southeast Asian countries to fully implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

This follows the ASEAN chairman's statement, which dropped any mention of "militarization" of China's artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea.

Upon the conclusion of the 30th ASEAN Summit in Manila, Duterte said that the 10-member regional bloc would push through with the enactment of a code of conduct on the disputed waters.

READ: With no reference to arbitral ruling, ASEAN to pursue sea code

China also vowed to work with ASEAN countries to finish consultation on the draft framework of the code of conduct by June.

"The Chinese side is willing to work with ASEAN countries to fully implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, deepen maritime practical cooperation, arrive at a code of conduct in the South China Sea based on consensus at an early date, and jointly uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea. According to the work plan, China and ASEAN countries will finish consultation on the draft framework of the COC in the first half of this year," Geng said.

The ASEAN, under Philippine chairmanship, went easy on China in its final statement, weakening Southeast Asian resistance against Chinese activities in the contested waters.

The final chairman's statement also did not mention the landmark ruling of an international arbitral tribunal which invalidated China's nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

RELATED: ASEAN accepting South China Sea as China's lake, says analyst

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