Xi Jinping assures Duterte of safe passage for all in South China Sea
President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said Chinese President Xi Jinping had assured him of China’s commitment to the right of safe passage in the disputed areas of the South China Sea.
“He assured as again: ”Do not worry. You have all the rights of safe passage and that would be also applicable to all countries’,” Duterte said during his arrival speech at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) shortly past midnight of Sunday.
Duterte and Xi had a bilateral meeting at the close of the Asia-Pacific Economic (Apec) in Vietnam during which the Philippine leader raised the issue of the South China Sea.
“Yes. Discuss the South China Sea? Yes. I said he was quite surprised about my coming in very strong in my statement here about the [Code of] conduct in the [South China] Sea,” Duterte said.
Prior to his visit to Vietnam, Duterte said he would be “frank” with Xi and relay the concern of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member-states on the reclamation and militarization in the disputed sea.
“I said: ‘I’m not raising any sovereignty issue. Do not worry.” But I said: ‘As chairman, I was made the tunnel for the communications to be active. I have to do it because the Philippine chairs the Asean now’,” he said.
Duterte said, he “cannot escape” his duty as Asean chairman to inform Xi know of the regional bloc’s concerns.
“The Philippines chairs ASEAN. I cannot escape from that duty. I had every right to ask him. But I explained it to him in a very nice way that’s all there is to it,” he said.
Duterte said he also raised the need to for a code of conduct of parties in the South China Sea.
According to him, Xi mentioned a “multilateral summit” to discuss a code of conduct in the dispute territory.
“President Xi Jinping mentioned about a summit or meeting, multilateral, only to talk about the rules of conduct. It has nothing to do with sovereignty,” he said. /cbb, /atm
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