CHINESE President Xi Jinping hailed the “dialogue” between Beijing and Manila over their border dispute in the South China Sea during a phone call with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Chinese state media reported.
“The mutual political trust (between China and the Philippines) continues to grow and our cooperation is flourishing in all areas,” Xi was quoted as saying.
“Channels of dialogue and negotiation on the South China Sea issue have also been set up, which will benefit the fundamental interests of our two countries,” he said.
The call came two days after Duterte toured a visiting Chinese warship on the southern Philippine port of Davao in a display of warming ties with Beijing, and after a phone conversation with United States President Donald Trump.
In contrast to his predecessor Benigno Aquino 3rd, Duterte has pursued close relations with China despite its extensive island-building in disputed parts of the South China Sea.
China claims nearly all of the strategically vital waterway, even waters approaching the coasts of its neighbors, despite partial counter-claims from several regional states such as the Philippines.
Duterte has secured promises of billions of dollars’ worth of investments from China in return for the diplomatic realignment.
Aquino in 2013 took China to a United Nations-backed arbitration tribunal over the maritime row.
The tribunal last year rejected China’s claim over most of the South China Sea, but Beijing has ignored the ruling.
In Davao City on Thursday, Duterte revealed that he was personally asked by Trump to talk to Xi to convince North Korean President Kim Jong-un to stop aggressive provocations.
“I had a talk with President Xi Jinping yesterday because he [Trump] called four days ago to ask me to call President Xi Jinping to do something about the situation regarding Kim Jong-un,” Duterte said.
“So I called President Xi Jinping. I am calling you on the behest of President of the United States, President Trump. And we all agreed in the Asean, and even President Trump that you can do something. Actually, the biggest contribution of all other is your intervention,” he added.
Duterte visit to China anticipated
Xi assured Duterte that China firmly stood for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and for its peace and stability. China, Xi said, was willing to see an active role by members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in securing regional peace and stability.
Xi also said he was anticipating Duterte’s visit to Beijing on May 14 and 15 to attend a forum of China’s “Belt and Road” economic initiative. Duterte visited Beijing in October last year to repair ties with China.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said Duterte, in his capacity as Asean chairman, told Xi of the need to strengthen ties as well as the outcomes of the recently concluded 30th Asean Summit in Manila.
During the summit, Duterte called on the US and North Korea to “show restraint,” as Southeast Asia, within range of North Korea’s missiles, might suffer the consequences of a nuclear war.
Malacañang on Thursday said the phone calls with Trump and Xi showed President Duterte’s “statesmanship” and role as a leader in Southeast Asia.
“Definitely it just goes to show that the President is being recognized for his leadership in the area. And I think the locals should also show better appreciation of their own President,” Abella said.
“It indicates statesmanship…that he is actually a key player in maintaining peace in the region. As the POTUS (President of the United States) has said, the Philippines is a key player right now in the region,” he added.