Ties at a turning point, China tells Philippine delegation

The Philippine Star

BEIJING  – Relations between China and the Philippines are at a new turning point, and Beijing hopes Manila can meet it halfway and handle disputes appropriately, a top Chinese diplomat has told a visiting Philippine delegation.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told a delegation from a Philippine foreign affairs committee in Beijing that ties had recently “sunk to a low edge for reasons everyone knows,” China’s Foreign Ministry said late on Tuesday.

“At present, China-Philippine relations are at a new turning point,” the statement quoted Liu as saying.

China “hopes the Philippines side can meet China halfway, appropriately handle disputes and push relations back onto the track of dialogue, consultation and friendly cooperation,” he said.

China and the Philippines have been involved in an increasingly ugly territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

Beijing claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of trade moves annually, while Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have rival claims.

An arbitration court in The Hague invalidated China’s claims to the waterway in July after a case was brought by the Philippines, a ruling that Beijing refuses to recognize.

Both countries have since been on a diplomatic push to ease tensions, with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang telling Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte he hoped the two countries could bring bilateral ties back to a normal track.

A Philippines special envoy, former president Fidel Ramos, said during a visit to Hong Kong last month that Manila wanted formal negotiations with China to explore pathways to peace and cooperation.

‘Chinese aggression a reaction to US presence’

The militant group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said the Chinese aggression in the South China Sea was in reaction to the US military presence in the region.

?“Beijing increases its military presence in the disputed sea because they are threatened with the US military presence in the region. Instead of having a peaceful conclusion with China through diplomatic and bilateral talks, the White House continues to interfere, making the situation even worse,” said Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya chairman.

Hicap said they are supporting Duterte’s move in pursuing an independent foreign policy.

“He (Duterte) should completely cut all the one-sided economic and military ties with the US and pursue a genuine independent Philippine foreign policy that will truly uphold and protect our national sovereignty and national interest,” Hicap said.

Duterte’s PDP-Laban political party also said the President has decided to pursue a foreign policy by stepping out of the shadow of the US.

The militant group Sanlakas called on Duterte to junk the Philippine-US military agreements in pursuing an independent foreign policy. – Jose Rodel Clapano, Mayen Jaymalin, Ding Cervantes

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