Duterte won’t bring up sea claim with China leader – Yasay
President Duterte will not raise the Philippines’s claim in the South China Sea in his bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his four-day state visit to China.
Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay told a press conference on Monday at Istana Palace in Brunei that if the issue were raised, it would be tackled only in “passing” or in “general terms.”
After his state visit to Brunei, Mr. Duterte will proceed to China for a state visit from Oct. 18 to 21.
“The South China Sea issue will not be discussed specifically in our bilateral engagements in resolving the issue. They might talk about it generally but I think the President has made it clear that maybe this is not the time to talk about resolving the South China Sea dispute as we are still continuing to build trust and confidence between the two countries,” Yasay said.
Yasay said the South China Sea issue was not the “sum total” of the country’s bilateral relations with China.
He said the Philippines should pursue other aspects of its ties with China such as trade, investments, tourism and aid that have been overshadowed by the country’s claim to the disputed isles that was upheld in July by a UN arbitral tribunal.
But Yasay clarified that the Philippines was not afraid to negotiate with China given the opportunity, including telling China that the President was in no position to abrogate its rights to the disputed territory within the country’s exclusive economic zone under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“Right now is not the time to discuss substantively resolving this issue. We still have to build on the lost trust and confidence eroded during the past administration. We should not miss out on opportunities for assistance and loans and pursue these things to the mutual benefit of both countries without eroding our respective claims over the South China Sea,” said Yasay.
In Beijing, Chinese officials on Monday sought to downplay earlier comments by President Duterte that he would raise the UN arbitral ruling on the South China Sea with China’s leaders.
Asked about Mr. Duterte’s remarks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that as he was the Philippines’ leader, President Duterte would make his policy based on the best interests of his country and people.
China’s position on the arbitration case is extremely clear and consistent and China advocates peaceful talks between the parties directly involved to resolve the South China Seas issue, Hua told a news briefing.
“China’s door has always been open to the Philippines, and I think you’ve also noticed that President Duterte has many times said he wants a dialogue with China, and his positive desire to appropriately resolve relevant issues,” she added.
China is willing to work with all parties in the South China Sea, including the Philippines, to maintain peace and stability in the waters, Hua said.
Speaking on Sunday, Duterte had vowed not to surrender sovereignty or deviate from the July award by the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
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